A popular discussion platform showcases media pitches gone awry, with a stern eye on the PR industry. A few quick clicks reveal blog headlines that call publicists arrogant, begging them to “suck less” and “stop being bad at stuff” amongst other things. While our side gets thrown a bone here and there, for the most part we get ridiculed quite mercilessly.
Of course, when publicists do something monumentally clumsy or deceitful, we deserve criticism, it’s a good way for us to improve. Still, publicists sometimes deal with reporters who don’t seem to get that we’re all in this beautiful mess together.
Dear reporters, before you think a publicist’s only goal is to raise your blood pressure, please know the following:
• Reporters help us accomplish our goals, but please remember we help you with your jobs too. You know who writes the online bios about your interview subject, who feeds you key facts and figures about the industry you cover, who gets you that sought-after intel no one else seems to know? Publicists do. We realize a key headline or fantastic placement depends on willing reporters, but we are a fundamental part of the process too – please, please, please don’t forget that.
• We are not encyclopedias. The press secretary can’t be expected to rattle off every single vote a Senator ever cast; the media relations VP can’t be expected to recall the location of all 73 global offices; the intern will never know when the client’s product will launch. When we don’t have answers, we usually ask around or go online to find out – just like you. If you want, we will dig around and get back to you. Not everyone passes (or likes) pop quizzes.
• We too deal with tyrannical, delusional bosses and soul-crushing demands on our time. There are many kind, thoughtful and driven people in PR who mentor junior staff and challenge them to do their best. And, there are many work environments that encourage respect, teamwork and creativity. But for every caring boss, there are lowlifes who berate, demean and insult their workers. For every awesome office, there are firms with exorbitant billing requirements, pointless expectations of face time and “colleagues” who sabotage and steal your work. Buy us a beer, we’d be happy to trade war stories.
• Our jobs are also in jeopardy. As publicists, we sympathize with the fact that the media industry is in an distressing, ongoing state of upheaval. But know that as newspapers shutter and reporters get pink-slipped, PR firms are hemorrhaging talent at a rapid clip. You’re not the only one wondering if that next phone call or email is HR asking us to “stop by for a friendly chat about your future.”
• It all comes full circle, baby. Good for you if you aim to be the next Cronkite; the world needs smart, demanding, no-nonsense reporters who deliver balanced and thought-provoking feedback. But, some of you may want to join our line of work eventually, to get a taste of the alleged dark other side. If so, you may want to think twice the next time you’re tempted to sneer at a publicist if you’re not getting the answers you want. Thanks to social networks, endless happy hours and meet-and-greets, the publicist community is more tight-knit than you may think. Know that gossip about a reporter’s bullish treatment and imbalanced coverage gets around very quickly.