Never Trust a PR

Never Trust a PR

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If you work in or run a PR firm, the Herald's Alexandra Cain has these golden rules for you.

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I am sick and tired of being dudded by public relations people.

This morning I had an email from one of my contributors, after I had knocked back a story idea of his because we had just published a story about the company in question. He was perplexed that the PR would pitch him a story idea for the small business section, given she knew we were about to cover her client.

It’s unfortunately standard practice in the dark arts of public relations to try to pull the wool over journalists’ eyes. These people must think we’re stupid. Problem is, we’re not and PRs who do this do themselves no favours. The same thing happened to me a few weeks ago when a PR pitched a story to me about a new product. I thought it was a great idea for a story. (I’d love to name and shame the product and the PR, but doing so would just give them further attention and they don’t deserve it.)

After agreeing to the story and doing interviews, I discovered another section in this paper had already done the story the week earlier. We can’t publish the same story twice. The stupid PR wasted my time and her client’s and I’ll never trust another pitch from her again. I could go on. And on. What are these people thinking? Despite the actions of the numerous unethical PRs, all journalists rely on them to do their work. They are the gate keepers between us and senior executives; the guardians of an organisation’s reputation. And there are good ones out there.

The good PRs know the areas individual journalists write about and pitch appropriate story ideas to them. If a client has appeared recently in this publication and the PR pitches a story about the client, the PR will let the journalist know that. The good ones don’t argue with you when you decline a story pitch. They don’t incessantly pester you. And they don’t claim a story is exclusive when it’s already appeared in another publication.

There’s also another tell tale sign of a good PR: their emails are not excessively cheery. I receive numerous emails each day from PRs, often with whom I have no relationship, that go something like this:

Hi!!! Hope you’re well and have had a great weekend!!!??? I have a SUPER DOOPA AWESOME story that’s exclusively YOURS if you want it? Soooooo … what happened was that Jack and Jill went up the hill. Can you believe it??? They actually fetched a pail of water – I am NOT KIDDING!!! Anyways, Jack fell down and broke his crown and he and Jill would JUST LOVE to share all the GORY details. Sooooo much blood!!! How about coffee tomorrow? Love, Amanda xxx

There is so much wrong with this approach to pitching stories to journalists I barely know where to begin. The excessive use of exclamation marks. Unnecessary capitalisation. Ending a business email with love and kisses. The fact the story is not newsworthy.

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