Journalists and PROs would be lost without each other, but their relationships don’t always run smooth. PROs have a great deal of respect for their journalist partners, but like any partnership, there are some bugbears.
PROs hate it when journalists:
1. Act all superior and treat PROs rudely.
2. Imply that PR is an unethical and easy profession.
3. Make themselves unavailable, even when they have asked for information.
4. Pretend to be interested in a story when they aren’t.
5. Pass on contact information to the sales team.
6. Give impossible deadlines.
7. Leave a message on the landline, but don’t try the mobile.
8. Make mistakes in their copy and headlines.
9. And then blame someone else for these mistakes.
10. Do all their background research using Twitter.
Graham Goodkind, founder of agency Frank PR took part in a recent Hacks versus Flacks debate, where journalists vented their spleen against PROs and vice versa. He says it became apparent that most journalists think all PR people are just like Max Clifford and do pretty much the same job as him: “They have no appreciation for the sheer breadth of what the PR profession involves. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking what Max does for a second because he is an expert in his field, but what he does really only represents a tiny fraction of what PR is about. And most journalists don’t seem to get that.”
For Louise Lloyd, founder of agency Popcorn PR, the most irritating journo behaviour is when they cannot be contacted despite needing relevant information. She says these are the ones who don't like to be, “phoned, emailed, Tweeted, invited to events or sent samples. Myself and industry peer Paul Sutton of PR agency Bottle, have joked that we need to have ‘psychic journo link implants‘.”
Lloyd also complains that some journos claim to be interested in a story, but then moan when PROs chase them up: “We don't mind honesty from the press at all, but if they say they are interested, we need to keep checking in with them. We respect the journos who say 'thanks but no thanks’ as then we all know where we stand.”
For Keren Burney, owner of PR agency Compege, the most irritating action by journalists is not bothering to call her mobile: “As a sole trader with school-age children, client meetings and briefings to attend to, I am in the office daily, but often need to be available via the BlackBerry. It annoys me intensely when a caller will not try my mobile, but leaves a message requesting an urgent client interview on my landline. For example, a television station attended a launch-day event for a client earlier this year. A second television station didn’t because it phoned the landline while I was at the launch to see who it should contact on the day and asked for a mobile number. The mobile number was on my landline message (repeated twice) and was clearly written on the press release.
“Maybe the news stories are two-a-penny for press. But to a dedicated sole-trader who would sell her right arm for a TV or radio interview, it would be great if reporters and researchers went one better, and rang the mobile.”
Simon Turton, owner of agency Opera PR hates it when trade title journalists forward press releases to the advertising sales team, which he describes as being “populated by people that make Arthur Daley look sincere“. He adds: “They then call you to see if you have any budget for 'colour separation' charges (which is a scam that really should be outlawed).” His last moan is when journos fob you off by getting you to resend the story to another colleague, “or, in the case of many local BBC stations, you're given the station's general email address (which the public can use), which is the ultimate way of saying 'get lost' and is insufferably rude.”
Written by Daney Parker