10 things that PRs do that really annoy journalists – part two

Ok, so this one genuinely confuses me. Over the years it has puzzled me but I still can’t figure out why PRs do it. Recently I’ve started asking other editors and journalists if they’ve had this happen. Around four out five have looked astonished and said “Yes! How weird is that? I thought it was just me. Now, why DO PRs do that?”

I’m talking about spending a fortune luring me out of my office to some fun event, taking the time and trouble to tell me about something interesting they or their clients are doing, and then completely failing to follow it up. No, more than that – on many occasions I’ve actively followed up on a discussion I’ve had with someone over lunch, at the racecourse, on the golf course, or somewhere similar, and found it almost impossible to get further information out of the PR.

Why does that happen?

As a journalist I get invited to quite a few events like that. I’m always up for going to them – it’s good as a freelance to get out of the office and meet some new people, and I’m never going to turn down tickets to see England play at the World Cup in Germany, or a golf day at the 2010 Ryder Cup course, or lunch in the Portrait Restaurant. Of course, the people who are inviting me know that they’re not buying coverage from me.  They are though getting my attention and have a chance to tell me about interesting products, services, ideas, news, and so on that I might want to put in my articles. That’s why they run these events. Presumably.

So, why do they then, almost without exception, fail to follow up after the event?

(I should point out that not every PR does this. I’ve got several PRs I work closely with, where the relationship began at one of these events. I came along, had a good time, discussed something interesting, and we followed it up afterwards. But, honestly, that is the exception.)

For a while I thought it was me – maybe having met me they decide that I’m not really that important a journalist after all, and they’re focusing their efforts on the other people who were there.  But then I discovered that most other journalists have the same problem.

Whatever the reason, it’s pretty annoying. Once or twice discussions at these events have prompted me to pitch ideas to titles I write for, and then, once I’ve been commissioned, I’ve had to go back to the editor and say I can’t complete it simply because the people who originally pitched the idea to me have gone AWOL. Letting my clients down like that does not make me happy. In fact it makes me very unhappy.

So, from the PR’s point of view, they’ve spent all that time and money and have not only achieved no coverage, they’ve also damaged their relationships with the people who came on it.

Now, why would they do that?

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6 Responses to “10 things that PRs do that really annoy journalists – part two”

  1. Diana Soltmann Says:

    I don’t honestly know why PR’s do that! It is a bit like ‘the wall of silence’. You phone/email someone you know and get….nothing! Just a huge silence. You try again and the same thing happens. I don’t mind if people say ‘no’ or ‘I am not interested’ but NOTHING is very frustrating. Imagine if you had a conversation with someone and asked them something and they just stared at you in silence?
    I guess we need to all get our acts together and enter into some more dialogue which I have just learned (fromnStephen Fry on QI) means lots of people talking not just two! And maybe brush up on common courtesy?

  2. PRetty Simple Really Says:

    Often because they were working on a launch for a client, and then the client didn’t give them any more budget for ongoing media relations after the event, so the follow ups don’t happen.

    Don’t take it personally. The PRs just have to work on something else that will feed them.

  3. Jane Lee, Dexterity Says:

    Agree such behaviour is counter-intuitive & not how I operate.
    I don’t buy PRetty Simple’s reply either as a project like an event should be planned & the budget agreed beforehand.
    And if there’s no client time left, it’s in the interest of an agency’s own reputation to send a ‘thanks for attending’ note at least, & to respond to any queries. Even if that’s done on your own time.
    Otherwise you jeopardise the relationship with your other ‘client’: the journalist. Clients may come & go, but journalists hang around longer with long memories…..

  4. PRetty Simple Really Says:

    I wasn’t saying it was good, Jane. I was saying that it happens.

  5. Jackie Murphy Says:

    I agree with you. If journalists are invited to attend an event it is in order to build relationships; but we are judged not just on media attendance but on the result of building the relationship – in other words what coverage ensues.

    But can I ask, why call us PRs? I am not a public relations, I am a public relations consultant and others may be public relations officers.

  6. admin Says:

    I know what you mean, Jackie, and I always flinch slightly when I type it. However I write and say it so frequently that I think it would look cumbersome (and possibly a little pompous) to use PR professional, PR consultant, PR officer and so on. It’s a pretty commonly used and accepted abbreviation these days. You can call me a journo if you like….

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