What reporters hate about PR people
post # 184 — September 7, 2006 — a Client Relations post
I just received a copy (thanks Steve Rubell) of a speech given by Tommy Fernandez, the journalist who covered the legal beat at Crain’s New York Business , at the July meeting of Law Firm Media Professionals
Taking no prisoners, Fernandez aims fairly and squarely at his audience of the Public Relations professionals who work for law firms – those who are always trying to get his attention and press coverage for their firms. Here are his “reasons why reporters hate you”
There are too damned many of you. (He gets more than 100 calls involving law firm pitches per day. Do the math.)
It’s getting nearly impossible to tell your pitches apart. There is no trend you can imagine that I have heard several times today.
You don’t listen (or keep promises about when you’re going to get back with a quote or supporting evidence for a story.)
You treat reporters like your social worker (“you’ve got to help me out of this situation”.) I am not here to help you. I am not your social case worker. I am not here to protect your job, make you feel good or help your clients. The sooner you accept that reality, the better of you’ll be.
You treat reporters like a social trophy (Come to lunch and meet our top execeutives and discuss the latest developments in document flow management software.” “What do you mean you don’t want to spend three hours with our management committee to educate us on ….)
Your clients are dumbasses and you don’t tell us: “Is that really the right question to be asking? Is this really the right story to be writing? I’ll tell you a story you should be working on, although it won’t really be a story until the winter, but that’s beyond your deadline, isn’t it?”
Reporters hate you (PR) becaude you act like used car salesmen. ‘A study in nausea’ he calls it. -Drop your fantasy. There is no spiel, no gimmick you can use to compel me to abandon my common sense. The attitude of reaching (PR) goals is actually one of the easiest ways you can shoot yourself in the foot.
There’s more, lot’s more, but you get the idea. Not surprisingly, this was Mr. Fernandez’ farewell speech – he’s moving on to cover other journalistic beats.
All of which goes to show.. What exactly? That PR people don’t understand journalists?
You don’t have to be in PR or the law to get a lot out of Mr. Fernadez’ rant.
The real lesson is that all of us get so wrapped up in what we want FROM the other person that we fail to understand what would make them want to give it to us.
It’s beneficial, if painful, to have the other side tell us, in uncertain terms, what it has been like working with us!
Dennis Howlett said:
You’re in my back yard now David as I’ve worked as a hack for 13 years. However harsh Mr Fernandez may sound, he’s pretty much on the money. Here’s the reason. PR was invented in the US to combat negative government pressure on Ford. It was all about influence. It quickly developed into an industry where the mantra is ‘control the message.’ By the early 1990s, spin had become endemic and whenever I travelled to the US, I could guarantee that an army of PR drones would be in attendance. All booted and suited in the same clothes, often looking like downbeat market traders. The problem is they have never understood that they cannot control the message – never have. Why else do you think there are so many marketers and PR flacks in the blogosphere. They’re terrified of losing control of that all important message. Yet they’ve never had it. At present, many are talking a good game but in reality they’re clueless. They’re trying to sound as though they know how to handle press, customers and so on but have progressed very little. US flacks struggle with UK hacks because we won’t be controlled. One of the great benefits of the blog revolution is that it has freed up a lot of American hacks from having to reprint press releases. That was the flip side in pre-blog days – especially in high tech – where too many hacks really didn’t have much idea what they were doing. Now, the market is sorting the wheat from the chaff and it is turning PR into a completely different discipline. The one you talk about where they’ve got to listen and respond or they’ll be flayed in electronic print. These issues are not as pronounced in the UK where there has been a strong tradition of independence. Thank goodness.
posted on September 7, 2006