Memo to grumpy editors: PR is not the enemy

In this guest post, Fleur Brown, CEO of public relations agency Launch Group, takes issue with a piece written in the Australian that argued that editors are grumpy with PR people for good reason.

Dan Kaufman’s rant in The Australian about the annoying habits of clumsy PR people is like watching someone rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.

While Dan’s right to take issue with poor professional practice, there are more pressing reasons for journalists to be grumpy these days than fielding annoying phone calls from PRs. Newsmaking is changing at a fierce pace and in a few years time the role of the PR practitioner and the journalist will look completely different.

That makes complaints about current practices somewhat beside the point.

What’s really at stake here is not the emotional health of a grumpy editor, but the health of the news industry in general. Taking the predictable route of blaming the PR person for frustrations over the newsmaking process is a great way for both parties to go out of business.

Last time I checked, poor practice is alive and well on both sides of the fence. Slack attitudes, under-resourcing and a shortage of empathy seem to be the common issues on both sides.

For every PR person who fails to do their research, there’s a journalist who won’t bother to familiarise themselves with the background to a company before interviewing its CEO. For every poorly written media release, there’s an online story that’s littered with factual and grammatical errors. For every exaggerated headline in a media release, there’s a dangerously misleading headline or inaccurate lead paragraph. For every inept PR person who calls to speak to a journalist who left the company a year ago, there’s a journalist asking to interview a CEO who also left a year ago. You get my drift.

For the past two decades, I’ve worked, studied and taught on both sides of the journalism and PR fence. Much of my career as a PR person and business owner has been spent advocating for journalists.

Journalists may be surprised to find that many public relations professionals revere their profession. A lot of people go into PR because we love writing, news and storytelling.  And we’d sooner crawl under a rock than break faith with journalistic standards.

When I teach public relations, I teach students to respect the craft of journalism.

When I media train clients, I spend the first half of my sessions trying to build empathy for journalists and the increasing challenges in their world.

When journalism students sit in my PR classes, they spend the first few weeks regurgitating the dogmatic claims made about our industry (‘the dark side’) by their journalism teacher.  Objectivity clearly takes a holiday during those sessions.

To bring a little balance to the debate, consider these realities confronted by a PR person.

PRs often need to convince business people to talk to media in the first place – many interviews would never take place without some strong lobbying on the part of a PR person.

Most business execs are used to quick, bottom-line results and sales tactics. The world of news creation is foreign to them. We beseech clients to take a longer-term view of relationships with media, and to drop the company agenda and focus on the value of a good story.

Now multiply those factors by the power of ten in coming years as mass media loses power and self-published content and online marketing takes over the focus for corporations – threatening the livelihood of both practices or opening up new opportunities, whichever perspective you prefer.

Given the vital links between our two professions, wouldn’t we be better off working together to shape the future of news – rather than hurling grenades across the trenches, only to discover we’re fighting a common enemy: the unrelenting speed of change?

Fleur Brown is CEO of Launch Group

Comments


  1. Dan Warne
    7 Jun 11
    12:38 pm

  2. “Most business execs are used to quick, bottom-line results and sales tactics. The world of news creation is foreign to them. We beseech clients to take a longer-term view of relationships with media, and to drop the company agenda and focus on the value of a good story.”

    This certainly rings true. Companies that understand the value of strong long-term relationships with journalists are few and far between. The ones that do make the effort really reap the rewards.

  3. Craig Middleton
    7 Jun 11
    2:59 pm

  4. Fleur is spot on about the changing roles of hacks and flaks – look at how social media in particular is disintermediating the journo – companies are talking directly to customers more and more.

    Dan’s op-ed focused on the worst examples and as Fleur responded there are two sides of the coin. If I had a dollar for everytime I got asked “got anything for me?” over the past 17 years….

    But the vast majority of Media/PR interactions are professional and productive for both sides and long may that be the case.

  5. Gemma
    7 Jun 11
    4:38 pm

  6. Well put Fleur.
    Well balanced view point.

  7. steve
    8 Jun 11
    11:44 am

  8. Don’t forget that in the age of risk management PR consultants are at the coalface of news more than many journalists, particularly in relation to what is happening inside a client’s boardroom. Journalists should see professional PR practitioners as a genuine source of news but that it is up to the practioner to build that credibility with journalists to demonstrate this is the case. The key here is relationships. Build relationships between journalists and your client. Give journalists what they need. Bring them into the loop, even if it’s off the record. One of the major deficiencies of the PR industry is that many practitioners have little or no understanding of journalists’ needs. They are probably the ones Dan Kaufman is referring to, and I don’t blame him quite frankly.

  9. Dan Kaufman
    8 Jun 11
    10:25 pm

  10. As the writer of the column referred to, I thought I ought to add my two cents worth:

    To a large degree I agree with Fleur. In fact, I make many of the same points in the book I wrote that’s mentioned at the end of the column I wrote for The Australian.

    As I put in my book, I think many journos have seriously screwed up – many don’t check facts, they don’t do enough investigation, they don’t take their responsibility to the public seriously enough, and many just think it’s good enough to have a job or a byline. It isn’t.

    However, in my 600 word column for The Australian I didn’t have the luxury of writing what I did in a 19,000 word book – and so I decided to focus on one element which, as an editor, does dominate a large part of an editor’s day. We DO field ridiculously bad PR calls all the time. Quite frankly, I think PR should be better than that. That was my point.

    My column was one-sided. It was meant to be. You may not think it’s relevant, but an awful lot of PR people are making mistakes on a daily basis – and that’s not good for business. I think there are some fantastic PRs out there – but there are also far too many who do their clients more harm than good. This is why I wrote my line about the “vixens”. Of course I realise there are some smart, savvy young PR women who happen to also be attractive. Of course I don’t think that people become PRs in order to hypnotize journos.

    BUT … if any industry largely hires pretty young things – and there’s no doubt that PR does – then you have to start questioning its values. You have to start questioning their priorities. You have to start questioning what the client is hiring them for. For PR to improve, I think those values need to be questioned.

  11. Fleur
    9 Jun 11
    10:15 am

  12. Dan

    Look forward to reading your book – and I’m sure it contains a lot of insight and for PRs and others.

    On the pretty young thing front, I’m not sure you’ll find a lot of support for that view.

    I don’t think clients (or for inhouse … companies) have much tolerance for anything other than results these days. Whether it’s an attractive person delivering the good or bad news to the client is somewhat beside the point.

    And on the time front – getting face time with a journalist or a client is also a challenge. So that leaves much of the work down to good written and verbal skills.

    It has always irritated me that many people (other than journalists) assume that PR comes down to being ‘mates’ with journalists. In my experience, outcomes come down to one thing – the value of the story (and the skill in finding the story). That takes intelligence and diligence.

    Your column was a great trigger for debate. So, thanks for the opportunity to vent from the other side …

    Fleur

  13. Kieran Moore
    9 Jun 11
    11:19 am

  14. Dan, you had me at ‘I largely agree with Fleur’, but then you lost me (again) in your reference to PR as an industry that largely hires ‘pretty young things’.

    Opinion pieces likes yours appear about once a year, about the same time as we are bombarded with the annual ‘babies having babies’ stories. Sadly, they belittle the fantastic relationships that exist between some PR professionals and journalists and the calibre of talent in PR beyond ‘young, pretty things’. I agree with Fleur, clients care about results and I would add integrity.

    I agree that there are some PR people who could be better trained and better at understanding the needs of the media. At Ogilvy PR we have 140+ experienced, smart and well trained professionals across all walks of PR including professionals in public affairs, community affairs, change communications, healthcare communications, brand and consumer communications, sustainability communication, stakeholder engagement and corporate social responsibility.

    As you can imagine, this demands a broad range of skills, so not only are our staff tertiary educated, but they come from a broad talent pool. Degree qualifications among our team include masters in public policy, masters in environmental science and law, master of letters and masters in biochemistry from Oxford University.

    We also have a former managing editor of The Sydney Morning Herald on board – and he’d never claim to be pretty.

    Kieran Moore, CEO, Ogilvy PR Australia (female, 45+)

  15. THAT Guy
    9 Jun 11
    12:26 pm

  16. I have a folder of “Crap PRs” as research for the presentation: Where Pr can go wrong and write. (geeediit write f’nah f’nah).
    They are truly awful and hilarious. Some of my PR mates have made it to that file. Its ok no, ones perfect and as soon as we understand that the better. And some of the words that I have slaved over have probably made it to crap writers file for some.

    What galls the shit out of me is the way PRs take credit for something they do not have anything to do with and then run like giddy LSD affected children to the client with a claim to up their retainer which comes fromt he ad budget that should be invested in supporting the media that is actually carrying the burden of creating content.

    But sometimes you’re the statue and sometimes the pigeon.

  17. Jörn Sanda
    9 Jun 11
    12:30 pm

  18. “BUT … if any industry largely hires pretty young things – and there’s no doubt that PR does…”
    I was born ugly and old, and have made mistakes. But now that I’m uglier and older, I struggle to contain my own frustrations on both sides of the coin.

    I’m tired of an increasing number of editors agreeing that it’s a well crafted story and that they appreciate the value of it to their readers, “but editorial is reserved for advertisers.” (Thankfully I’ve not heard it from newspapers, but magazines don’t even seem to be embarrassed about it any longer)

    And I’m exhausted at a part of the PR industry somehow still getting away with convincing clients that the value of PR is to take the ad rate of an article and multiply it by anything from three to ten times…

    Where can I find rest? But thanks for some very enjoyable copy and arguments made. They have given me the energy to carry my way towards the QBLW (my abbreviation for the impending long weekend)

  19. Allison Lee
    9 Jun 11
    12:35 pm

  20. Dan, did you really just describe PR professionals as ‘pretty young things’?

    Yes, the industry is largely made up of women; 73% by Curtin University’s estimate. But to characterise us as ‘pretty young things’ is sexist and demeaning.
    As an agency owner and an employer, I hire tertiary-qualified, smart professional women – their looks don’t come into the equation.

    Like Kieran, I agree: there are some PRs that could be better trained. But trust me, I have seen the same in journalism.

    Here we are in 2011 with a female prime minister and a female governor general and yet we find gender insidiously entering the debate yet again.

  21. Isabelle
    9 Jun 11
    12:43 pm

  22. Sometimes pretty young things also have pretty big brains. It hurts, I know. Doesn’t mean it’s not true.

  23. Dan Kaufman
    9 Jun 11
    12:54 pm

  24. Isabelle: That’s what I said in my comment. Of course there are smart and attractive young women.

    Allison: there’s a HUGE difference between sexism and observation. I’m glad we have a female prime minister. Some of the best professionals I’ve worked for – and with – are women.

    My point was that many PR women are young and attractive – in fact, the percentage is far higher than in most other industries. I think that’s curious.

  25. Jörn Sanda
    9 Jun 11
    1:02 pm

  26. I certainly didn’t read ‘pretty young things’ as sexist but rather a reflection of the fact that some walks of PR to have ‘pretty young things’ – both male and female. I recently attended a consumer PR event where I was astounded at the amount of fake tan, chest and brilliant white teeth, all dressed in the latest fashion, sported by both genders.

    I left early not on account of the aesthetics, but the lack of depth in conversation. I’m sure there were big brains there too – but they know to avoid a grumpy old B2B PR :-)

    And a final thought: How dare anyone conclude that a male can’t also be pretty or young?

    Anyone want to compare aesthetics with intelligence and gender – meet you at the Foxhole this evening.

  27. Chris Savage
    9 Jun 11
    1:28 pm

  28. well said Fleur. Agree entirely.

  29. Dani Lombard
    9 Jun 11
    1:56 pm

  30. As the owner of a boutique PR agency, I am VERY happy to say that I think Dan was right in his observations. I have MANY journalist friends – as no doubt we all do in PR – and I hear hundreds of horror stories about what they have to put up with from 22 year old air heads pitching things that don’t have an ounce of relevance. Many of the journos now put their out of office on and NEVER answer the phone to avoid dealing with it.

    OF COURSE this does not mean that there aren’t jolly smart and AWESOME female (and male) PR practitioners in the industry – there are. But there are also a lot of “pretty young things” who give PR a bad name. It’s true. Don’t shoot the messenger.

    There are more and more folks getting into PR without going to uni because they like “fashion” or did a Tafe course on “events”. Most of these folks are female. I know – I get their CVs. Riddled with spelling mistakes. I personally do not hire anyone without a tertiary degree – love me or loathe me – that’s how I sort out the majority of the brains from the… well… beauty.

    Thankfully I have three VERY brainy and hard working staff working for me. They also happen to be quite attractive. Sadly, the majority of our work is on the phone or via email so beauty has little do to with it. On the plus side, I try to instil the fear of god in them DAILY about bugging journalists with the wrong material. For every poorly placed pitch – there is an appropriately placed pitch that generates a fabulous story and everybody wins. Just keep doing your jobs well fellow PR folk! That’s all we can do!

  31. Marissa
    9 Jun 11
    1:57 pm

  32. There are countless times I’ve thought about writing something similar to Fleur’s post after seeing a tweet from a journo about the ineptness of a PR person, but I never quite knew how to word it. Fleur, I think you put it perfectly and with remarkable graciousness.

    If Dan thinks the PR industry is full of “pretty young things” I think the PRIA should invite him to this year’s conference – A room full of 600+ people who have been working in varying PR roles of varying ages, “attractiveness” and smarts.

    Although I do agree to a small point with Dan. The amount of PYTs in PR can probably be attributed to the glamorisation of the industry thanks to Hollywood and the influence it has on teenagers when it comes to career choices. This is just a thought based on my experiences as a university tutor/guest lecturer and the amount of exceptionally attractive females that I taught who, might I add, are also exceptionally smart women.

  33. Watto
    9 Jun 11
    2:28 pm

  34. So your column, Dan, was actually a publicity piece for your book?

    Great piece Fleur. I agree with everything you said.

    Why are journalists still writing, and the media still publishing, these anti-PR pieces? It has been the same for years – there are mistakes on both sides. What have these pieces achieved aside from allowing journalists to “kick the cat” when they’re feeling frustrated? Do any other professions have OpEd pieces published in the mainstream media criticising other professions? Should I submit something on design houses that have not followed my briefs?

  35. Jo Gitsham
    9 Jun 11
    2:38 pm

  36. Dan, I guessing you haven’t walked into a media agency of late. Plenty of what you would call ‘pretty young things’ there too. Are you going to draw the same conclusion for that industry? So you think PRs call you too often, fair enough, just leave the irrelevent ‘pretty young thing’ comment out of it as it’s doing you no favours.

  37. Laura
    9 Jun 11
    2:41 pm

  38. My first job was PR- i got out of it as soon as i could.

    The agency i worked for epitomised everything that is wrong with PR. The MD made a point of hiring young girls (in his own words ‘skinny brunettes or busty blondes’) straight from university. The agency specialised in IT; the logic being that most IT clients and journos are middle-aged men who are more likely to humour a pretty young thing.

    As a junior exec, I had to write releases for obscure companies, who rarely had anything new or interesting to say, and get these printed in IT mags or face the wrath of my clients/boss.

    The amount of abuse (often extremely agressive) i’d receive from busy journalists who didn’t want to talk to me was incredibly depressing- what they didn’t understand is that most of the time i was acutely aware of the dirge i was trying to get them to print- but had to do it anyway.

    My conclusion from all this is that i completely empathise with both sides; the journos who see PR calls (when the subject matter is irrelevant) as highly irritating, and the poor PRs who have to push this rubbish or face the consequences. My suggestion would be for senior PRs/directors to have a frank discussion with their target mags and work out what exactly is and isn’t worth sending. Once a PR director has been told what a journo wants to hear about, there’s no excuse for them to harrass the poor guy with pointless drivel- and no excuse for journos to vent their spleens at PRs.

  39. Scott Pettet
    9 Jun 11
    2:56 pm

  40. One of the things that truly disturbs me about the PR industry is the amount of infantile, sycophantic fawning displayed by some segments of the PR industry over editors and journalists. Why is it that some PR people think they need to be best buddies with the media in order to be successful? And this view often extends to clients who think that in order for their agency to be successful, their ‘PRs’ need to be best buds with all their target media! As a PR professional, the media should know and respect you for the quality (and in some cases, exclusivity) of the yarns you serve up, not for the size of your ‘media entertainment’ expense account.

  41. Dani Lombard
    9 Jun 11
    5:11 pm

  42. Laura I totally hear you. As a wee young junior working in my first year in PR in the USA, we were given BIG pitch lists of media that HAD to be pitched with our lame stories. A new internet service provider – HOORAH! YES I had to pitch this to the Wall Street Journal.

    Yes it was humiliating and demoralising. I shook in my boots. And when I told my boss that they weren’t interested, I was told to GO BACK WITH ANOTHER ANGLE. I shook in my boots again. I KNEW if I went back I would DESTROY my already weak reputation with said journalist. What to do??

    So in certain instances – its fair to say that the poor PYTs may be, in certain instances, forced to log in these lame brained pitches, just so they can tick a box and make their lame brain boss happy.

    I am the FIRST PERSON to tell a client they’re dreaming if their product/service story isn’t strong enough for the particular media outlet they want to go after. Clients respect your honesty and you’re not setting yourself up to FAIL by promising the world and delivering, well, not much.

    Ooh this conversation is getting saucy!

  43. P.Y.T
    9 Jun 11
    5:22 pm

  44. I agree with everything Fleur said, but I can also see where Dan is coming from…

    I worked – many years ago – at a ’boutique PR agency’ in Sydney who palmed off media follow up to interns and junior members of staff who knew little about the media landscape. Most PR professionals see media follow up as a chore (c’mon, just admit it), but it’s no excuse to delegate it to someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. Junior publicists shouldn’t even be allowed to speak to media until they’re fully trained.

  45. An average looking middle aged consultant
    9 Jun 11
    6:03 pm

  46. Have been in and around PR all my life. The reality is that Dan is right re: PYT, whether it be male or female. A lot of people are given the job on looks. Whether they then go onto become good PR practioners over the years is irrelvant and must be seperated out, as after all, you can teach monkeys to do most things over time. Even pretty monkeys. PYTs are usually picked over a more qualified candidate – but the words – ‘better potential’ are used to justify it. PR has its good and bad points and I am afraid the PYT aspect is a negative.

  47. Louisa Deasey
    9 Jun 11
    10:37 pm

  48. I like this debate. But I’d like to add a new point to discuss: why are so many journalists ugly?? I find it curious. As one who has worked for the two biggest news organisations in the country I found the preponderance of ugly, unhealthy, stressed out journos quite strange.
    Why do you have to be in PR to care what you look like?
    Just wondering.

  49. steve hunt
    10 Jun 11
    9:22 am

  50. Scott Pettet – hit the nail on the head. If it’s newsworthy it will run. PR people need to have a news sense or they cannot service their clients properly.

  51. Dan Kaufman
    10 Jun 11
    10:22 am

  52. I agree with Louisa: to generalise wildly, journos aren’t the most attractive – or well-dressed – profession you’ll ever meet!

    For the record, I’m actually not slamming young attractive PR even though I know that’s how my comment was taken by many. As I put in my book, I know agencies run by gorgeous women (who hire young, smart women) who do a great job for their clients – my issue is more with the type of clients Laura talks about who hire based on looks and not talent, as well as the notion some people have that PR needs to be young and attractive to work.

    But debate and argument is necessary, same as it’s necessary for journos and publishers to hear criticism of journalism. If publishers had paid genuine attention to the HUGE amount of criticism that the public had directed at them earlier then maybe journalism wouldn’t be in such a dire position right now.

  53. Samira
    10 Jun 11
    10:56 am

  54. @laura: I remember and know that pain all too well. As a junior person in Communications, having to reach out to the media can be at times excruciating. I agree that junior PR/Communications staff should get training/mentoring on how to approach the media or otherwise senior staff take on that role. However I also think it comes down to a bit of research of relevant media and journalists. Google is our friend.

    As far as the PYT, I have noticed that its really reflective on industry. Obviously fashion, lifestyle and entertainment PR seem to have a high number of them. No point in yelling at Dan when he is simply speaking what many of us have probably have been thinking.

    Interesting debate.

  55. John Young
    13 Jun 11
    3:07 pm

  56. A few of these comments need subbing. My rates are reasonable.

  57. Lmc
    14 Jun 11
    3:33 pm

  58. What I find amusing and a little nauseating is the PRs who have used this column to promote themselves – in particular Dani Lombard. This is just one of many complaints about PRs, stop promoting yourselves. We see it far too often.

    The biggest issue with PRs is that the vast majority have never worked in an editorial capacity. They don’t have a clue how a newsroom works, what really happens in a newspaper, radio, television, magazine. It’s not enough to learn about it at uni, tafe.

    Until this changes the majority of PRs will continue to be incompetent.

  59. Alan
    15 Jun 11
    9:58 am

  60. For every newspaper journo writing one or two stories a day on $60k, there’s ten PR hacks working on one prepared statement a week on $90k.

  61. Marie
    15 Jun 11
    12:09 pm

  62. Lmc – I agree with you completely RE understanding how a newsroom works.

    But you lost all credibility when you isolated Dani. She wasn’t promoting herself – she has a valid opinion, years of experience, a successful business – and is drawing from this to provide valuable content to a public conversation.

    That was petty, dude.

  63. Laura
    15 Jun 11
    12:24 pm

  64. It takes a brave PR exec to say no, Dani; if you’ve done this before, then I’m massively impressed! :0)

    I agree- i guess you have to be working for an agency which actually cares about its reputation (mine didn’t) enough to think about the long-term consequences of pitching to and winning clients who just aren’t ever going to get any value from PR. Needless to say, my one year in PR felt like a production chain of clients who should never have believed they had anything worth promoting to the press. I don’t think we ever managed to keep a client longer than 6 months- yet, miraculously, this agency is still up and running.

    Well done Dani, for trying to break the cycle!

  65. sven
    15 Jun 11
    12:32 pm

  66. earth to LMC – journalism isn’t rocket surgery. It isn’t difficult to work understand how news and a newsroom works. And to criticise a PR for promoting herself is quite idiotic, comrade.

  67. Lmc
    15 Jun 11
    12:53 pm

  68. Ya Sven! Get real, do you really believe that a PR can have a thorough understanding of journalism by sitting in a couple of lectures?!

    I’m sure the journalists would love to hear that.

    And it’s not idiotic, my swedish friend, it’s one of the major issues of PR, they’re too busy promoting themselves instead of focusing on their clients.

    It was such blatant self promotion – ok not just Dani but she sure did stand out.

  69. Alan
    15 Jun 11
    1:04 pm

  70. No, Sven.

    Having worked many years on both sides (and now preferring to work in neither), I reckon journalism is much tougher than a lot of you would like to think. And it’s not getting any easier.

    Bad pay, tiny pay rises, very long hours and then the pushing merde up hill against the tightest and more and more incredulous PR people’s attitudes you could ever imagine. Not to mention, working in a very unstable workplace. Anyone want a job at Fairfax right now?

  71. Sarah
    20 Jun 11
    3:08 pm

  72. @Alan – For every newspaper journo writing one or two stories a day on $60Kpa, there are 20 PRs working 12hrs a day for $30Kpa to provide media materials that journos will copy, paste and add their byline to.

    It’s easy to overlook the enormous amount of work that goes in at the PR end to ensure that journos are (in most cases, hopefully) being delivered engaging, news-ready content.

    Think about how much more difficult a journo’s job would be if the entire PR function – media releases, media training, press conferences, exclusivity and the whole kit and caboodle – were to disappear.

    The fact is, every coin has two sides each with its hard workers and easy riders.

  73. Alan
    20 Jun 11
    3:18 pm

  74. The journos I know and respect wouldn’t have too much of a problem with that Sarah. Neither would the readers.

  75. Simon Sharwood
    21 Jun 11
    1:11 pm

  76. PR is not the enemy. But it’s not often that PR is a true friend to journos.

    In some industries and on some clients, PR are great by virtue of their ability to control information: you don’t get a product to review or access to some folks without PR.

    But the rule, in my experience, is that *most* of the PR pitches I get are not a huge step up from direct mail. I get popped on a list and in come the speculative offers. By the dozen. Every day. Sometimes followed by phone calls asking nothing more than if your email server succesfully downloaded the email.

    Sifting through this stuff is a significant part of many journos’ working days. And it’s not one we asked for.

    Some journos don’t respond well or civilly to that.

    Is it reasonable to expect them to?

    Australia implemented a Do Not Call list because consumers were tired of receiving a handful of inappropriate offers a week. Many journos get dozens.

    Sometimes we snap or voice disbelief and/or anger at how inappropriate PR has become.

    And sometimes we are right to: I edit a magazine called Government Technology Review. Anyone who had read a single issue would quickly divine that it is about how technology powers government services. Yet a pitch I received earlier this year suggested I should talk to an environmental technology company that had received a government export grant.

    That didn’t come from a 22 year old : the pitch was made by an agency principle. That was a worst-case pitch: an exception in its awfulness.

    I sometimes respond to that kind of pitch by asking “I know you’re not the kind of PR who would pitch without understanding a publication or reading a recent issue, so which section of the magazine do you think your story would run in?” It’s a cruel question, but the silences that follow are excruciating. And maybe instructional.

    I’m sure PRs could ask similarly embarassing questions of some journos, who are not always professional too. But I also wonder if a little less time spent scanning and deleting irrelevant pitches might mean we could be better.

  77. Tomba
    30 Jun 11
    11:05 am

  78. As an ex-journo-and-editor-turned-behind-the-scenes-darksider, I’d like to thank Fleur for the biggest laugh I’ve had in years:

    “A lot of people go into PR because we love writing, news and storytelling. And we’d sooner crawl under a rock than break faith with journalistic standards.”

    Hilarious!!!! I love me a good absurdist comedy.

  79. Stuart Ridley
    1 Jul 11
    2:00 pm

  80. @Dan Did News Ltd pay you for your column promoting your ebook?

    If that happened, then you’ve already nailed ‘content marketing’ (or whatever they’re calling ‘self-promoting editorial’ these days).

    Though you might make better money ghost writing ‘expert’ columns on behalf of clients eager to get editorial in publications looking for these columns (regardless of whether the client is paid for the column or gets the space as a value-add/value-ad for advertising!