Journalist management: A case study for PR professionals

Most PR people I know in the IT industry work way harder than I do. They’re in their offices hours before I show up at the crack of 9:30, and are usually there well past the time I’m making dinner.

They’re usually relentlessly cheerful, despite the fact they deal all day long with demanding clients and bellicose journalists labouring under the delusion they’re God’s gift to readers.

Many of them have the power to make busy executives available at the drop of a hat in order to meet a writer’s deadline. On vendor-sponsored business trips, they are often treated like well-dressed nannies, escorting whiny journalists to dinner at expensive restaurants and attending to their clients’ every last need. OK, maybe not every last one, but certainly a good number of them. They send us Christmas cards and invite us to parties. It’s just part of their job, but still.

 I know I could never do that job. It demands qualities I don’t possess, like diplomacy, for one.

But if I were, courtesy of a personality transplant, suddenly in the employ of a PR agency, I can tell you what I wouldn’t do, if I intended to foster a relationship with journalists whose only mandate is to cover the industry my client sells its products or services to.

Contrast, if you will the following recent experiences.  In the first, a PR person approached me about a story that sounded interesting and timely, as it was related to current events. But the story she pitched, and the interviews with her client and the users, weren’t even vaguely related, a fact which was discovered only after the story was published. But to add insult to injury, the PR “professional” refused to respond to e-mails and voice mails asking for an explanation, instead passing it on to someone else who didn’t actually take on the task.

That’s not good for anyone, especially not the client, who in the long run is not likely to benefit from soured relations between the PR agency that represents them and journalists.

In the second situation, a PR agency pitched another, equally interesting story, and had already received assurances that the user would participate. After some back and forth over interview times, it came out that the user wanted to see the copy first before publication, which the agency knew was unlikely to happen. The PR professional quickly informed us of that fact and no time was wasted – not his, ours, or his client’s.

The reality of the business is that situations come up, many of which are out of the control of the PR professional’s hands. But it’s not the size of the problem that matters, it’s how you choose to handle it that makes all the difference. 

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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