An Open Letter to PR folks for a better Brand-PR-Media Ecosystem

Disclaimer: This post is based on my experience with corporate communications team of organizations and PR and social media agencies in the technology as well as, to use the broad term, lifestyle space. Different industry sectors might have different stories to tell, and individual mileage may vary. Also, I attempt a collective media representation for bloggers, online editors, print journalists, columnists, television panellists, et al.

Be Better Organized
Most of us in the media would attest to this, and most PR agencies, barring individuals, on the whole would be guilty of being a mess in communication and at events.
  • Invites: The invites to events and press conferences are sometimes last minute. There are typos, AMs and PMs are reversed, venue details are scratchy, and almost always, there’s no agenda. Also, I’ve cried myself hoarse to have a calendar invite as part of the invite making life easy for us.
  • Emails: As a PR-fearing, good person, I usually respond to invites with a confirmation or if I was skipping it. In most cases, that is not registered, and I still get a call for confirming the invitation, and if the event is a week or so away, more than one call. Also, please don’t call to check if we’ve received an email that you’ve sent!
  • Time: Please start press-conferences on time! I hate the meandering wait that happens at media events, and longer the wait, more pissed off are the attendees which isn’t great for the brand anyway. Most of my colleagues hate celebrities at the events because they tend to delay the proceedings, but I guess, it’s simply an execution failure.
  • Media Kits: Almost a majority of folks do not use the printed press-releases. I guess the agencies can do away with those, make sure the release is mailed immediately or is handed over in pen-drives at event, and save a lot of paper on the way. Also, package the photos, the press note, the specifications, and other details systematically.
  • Travel: Why do most agencies goof up on travel arrangements when it’s the simplest thing to organize? Email flight options, once selected, email flight tickets and hotel reservation (in one mail!), and if there are cab arrangements, inform of the same. But usually it takes few phone calls and more than a couple of emails to have everything sorted.
Not Just a Cell in Your Spreadsheet
Each individual has his own preference, body of work, style, and ethics. I don’t know why most PR folks treat every one of us as a uniform cell in their database spreadsheet.
  • Stay updated: I still get pitches for ZDNet where I stopped writing last year. My homepage and Twitter bio are always updated, but I still get calls asking me where I’m writing these days.
  • Listen: I get calls about un-replied emails which are sent to wrong addresses. I’ve corrected a lot of folks multiple times, but continue to ‘not get’ emails. Funnily, I’ve never had a change of email address or anything. The wrong ones have just been figments of imagination.
  • Preferences: I prefer emails over phone calls, no paid posts offers, no push for reviews, and so on and so forth. A PR person who’s in regular touch with me should know that. This isn’t entitlement, but an industry etiquette.

Don’t Make us Talk to the Hand
PR is all about circumventing the mishits of the brand and flaws of the product, and spin positive communication. The last part is essential, existential, and ironically, the missing apart from in press releases.

  • Review Units: I understand that there are only a few review units of a product, and a priority order that the agency/brand has decided. My problem is that in most cases, the timeline shared is ‘very soon’. A better response with a definite timeline helps both parties. Also, my non-Delhi friends keep cribbing about how getting review units is frustrating.
  • Respond: Most PR folks, and some of whom I’ve had a great working relation as well, would skip requests for a product, interaction, or seeking information. Like a wave, they are all friendly and would like to help around a product launch or an event, but nonchalant otherwise.

Editorial Preference
If you are catering to the sell-out crowd, it’s your prerogative, but I’m entitled to my editorial as well as personal preferences.

  • Review Units: No I will not review a product in three days. Period. I may not mention the highlights that you want to be marketed. Please don’t mistake my editorial skill or the lack of it for arrogance.
  • Mandate Content: While pitches from PR folks are great and sometimes helps us, an acceptance of pitch doesn’t mandate a post. Similarly, an event invite or a product sent for review does not necessarily merit a post. Also, please don’t force timelines on us because you’ve set expectations with your client, the brand. Our editorial calendar is our prerogative.
  • Twitter Spamming: Some polite requests for hashtag tweets was okay, but ‘you’ll have to tweet’ or a ‘maximum tweets’ contests in press conferences is plain wrong.

Most of the points here are generalized, but not exaggerated. Most of us have horror tales of dealing with a PR guy, but also have some good friends from the agencies. If holding a mirror to one is an offence, maybe I’m guilty, but I think a better PR connect makes our job easier and translates to better brand perception.

Also, there’s a lot of things we could do better. Reach events on time, RSVP to event invites, not be a sell-out, not have an air of arrogance, so on and so forth. But that’s for another post, maybe.

Thoughts from friends in media welcome, and so are retorts from PR friends. See you at the next presser! šŸ™‚

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