open-letter

Working in PR, it’s our job to help media find interesting stories and market our clients. Media obviously need sources and fodder for their stories. So, we both need each other to do our jobs yet we don’t live in perfect harmony. The rivalry between PR and media has a long, storied history. There are bad apples in every bunch – PR people who are ill-prepared, send spammy email, etc. and media who leave young, PR people in tears with their aggression. But, the media are far more prone to making their grievances with PR people public in this social media era. This all got me thinking about the times I’ve been frustrated on the other side of the fence but said nothing. So I decided to poll colleagues and pull together an open letter to the media about the things that test our patience. Take it or leave it, but we’re just sharing because we care.

  • Beat it. A big part of our job is knowing the media and what you cover, so when we pitch a story and your reply is “sorry, not my beat” or “I don’t cover that” it’s a huge surprise to us since we just read multiple, recent stories you wrote on that topic. We get it, things change fast, but we’ve done what you request by doing our homework – so it’d be great if you’d throw us a bone and tell us what’s changed when you reply.
  • Be prepared. We try to provide easily-digestible and relevant details about a company – description of what they do, what the news/story is, facts, background on execs, etc. and it does everyone a disservice when you come to the interview without even giving that background a glance. We know you’re busy and might not have time to dig deep, but at least scratching the surface by giving a quick read will make the time you spend with our executive more valuable.
  • Don’t hate the player. So you take the briefing, you dig the story and you run a piece – then you call me and complain that someone else had better info in their article. I didn’t give them anything I wouldn’t have given you, they just dug deeper. We can and will help you all day long but don’t forget that great journalism stems from asking insightful questions, not just running with a press release.
  • Again, we know you are busy and things come up (we’re not on a pleasure cruise over here either fwiw), but if you’ve replied with interest or have confirmed plans to write and don’t, it’d help you avoid constant follow up if you didn’t ignore us or lead us on endlessly and instead just closed the loop.
  • Help us help you. Good PR pros build amazing relationships that result in media coming to them for sources for a story but it’s not always easy to get you what you’re looking for. We’re often bending over backward, dropping what we’re doing and pulling rabbits out of hats to get you what you need, when you need it. Sometimes our clients aren’t a fit for their story, but that never stops us from going out to our network to help. We go to great lengths to get you what you ask for – and we get that it won’t always make the cut – but when that happens, just give us feedback on what didn’t work so we can be a better source next time.
  • We can’t always be exclusive. I can’t even count how many times a reporter has told me they want an exclusive. I get it – you want to be the first to break the news. But sometimes that just doesn’t make sense for the story being told. And, you want us to not date anyone else but you aren’t ready to commit in the same way? We’ll definitely bring you exclusives when we can and when we do…
  • Stick to your word. If you say you’ll take the exclusive, we’ll take your word for it. We’ll push our client to give you what you need and work within your timeline – but please show us the same professional courtesy and let us know if things change, what you need from us and when.

In the ideal world, we would have a symbiotic relationship. Instead of airing our grievances about a specific person publically (shout out to all the PR folks who have had their email, photo and personal contact info blasted for all the world to see – chin up, this too shall pass!), let’s look for ways to be open and productive about the larger issues vs. specific people and help each other’s industries get better. We are open to your suggestions at any time.