Thursday, November 20, 2008

Even as Technology Impacts PR, There's Still Tension Between Journalist Hacks and PR Flacks

Been seeing a higher-than-expected number of posts, Tweets, etc. from journalists annoyed with publicists and responses from flacks about the hacks' complaints.

This tension has been going on since I entered the PR biz two decades ago. And I know that it was going on long before that.

What's changed is that through Web 2.0 media, both sides can vent their feelings much more readily. Wired's Chris Anderson posted a list of flacks, including agencies, he has banned: "Sorry PR people: you're blocked." CNET's Rafe Needleman also has a list of blacklisted flacks and, in some cases, entire agencies -- but does not post the list.

Rafe also has compiled a list of lessons that tech flacks should review, esp. before pitching him. Pro PR Tips has some basic, and some not-so-basic, advice. The main value is to remind publicists the importance of remembering there's a human being on the other side of the email.

On the flacks side, Steve Kayser, a writer in Cincinnati, wrote a thorough rebuttal of journalists' complaints: In Defense of PR Pros.

While there is no doubt lots of lazy flacks out there, it is also true that there are lazy hacks, too. I suspect there would be more complaints from publicists if they weren't afraid of being blacklisted.

The shame of it is that journalists and publicists do need each other -- even if the former doesn't always see that. Without in-house or agency publicists, companies would be less accessible not more. Companies would be less prepared to help in large and small ways. For example, not every executive is able to deliver interesting, succinct answers that are suitable for quoting -- but media training helps them. Many companies wouldn't have photos available -- how do I know? Over my 20 years in the biz, many companies didn't think about photos until we asked them.

I could go on, but I've got work to do...developing an interesting pitch for a client.

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