PR’s world: bad writing, bad pitching and PO’d journalists

February 28, 2008 at 9:24 pm Leave a comment

Sally Saville Hodge

One of my more mortifying moments since hanging up my PR shingle 20 years ago:

I was having lunch with a former colleague who was the editor of a local business publication when he pulled out a news release, liberally doused with red ink, that had been sent out by my firm.

“I was really surprised, Sal, to see this coming from you,” he said. And he proceeded to itemize why: A variety of typos had, er, slipped through – including our phone number and in the spelling of the name of our business. There were grammatical errors. The run-on sentences took my breath away.

As these things went, he told me kindly, this was not one of the worst press releases he’d ever seen. He (as I in my journalism days) could cite example upon example of purely dreadful crap issued in the guise of “public relations.” Ten-page releases chock-full of irrelevant information (like where a business owner’s oldest son had graduated from college). Pieces that were only marginally veiled sales sheets. Releases where you might find the point if you had the patience to read through to the last page (most journalists don’t).

Mortified, I still thanked my friend, telling him that I was just as surprised as he was, as this was the first time I was seeing the release myself. Yes, the account executive had broken my cardinal rule that I see everything before it is distributed. And, yes, she would have been fired immediately upon my return to the office had she not resigned as soon as I confronted her.

The drek produced by many shops is only one reason why journalists and PR practitioners have a love/hate relationship. The fact is that we need each other, even though many with the media hate to admit it. But too many agencies and their people work in a way that makes it harder for those of us who are more thoughtful in positioning storylines that meet the needs of the media as well as our clients.

Two blogs of note for clients and agencies to monitor to grow their understanding of best practices in media relations – by virtue of negative examples. One is The Bad Pitch Blog, providing appallingly hilarious tales from the trenches. These guys just wrote about another blog that makes for interesting reading, AngryJournalist.com. On this front, I find it very comforting to note that while its contributors are angry at bad flaks, they are equally angry at themselves, their editors, their co-horts and peers, their advertising staff, their advertisers…

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Entry filed under: Agency Management, Media Relations, Missteps, Public Relations.

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