Friday, April 30, 2010

Help Journalists Do Their Jobs

Publicists exist to make sure their employers or clients are portrayed favorably in the news. One of the easiest ways to do that is to be responsive when a journalist requests information. It's too bad more publicists don't know this.

I had a frustrating experience with a nonresponsive publicist this week, but it wasn't nearly as annoying as my colleague's experience today. She writes for a custom (sponsored) publication that requires that her non-expert sources be customers of the sponsoring company. It's a huge, nationwide company, so that's not much of a challenge.

One of her approved sources for her current list of assignments is a public relations firm. "Great!" we all think. They know how this works, right?

Hahahaha. Not so much.

She e-mailed her request to the firm's owner, asking if he could address one of several topics she's writing about for a series of articles. His response didn't answer her question, but he did make it clear that he wanted to talk about getting his clients interviewed for the articles, too. After an exchange of several e-mail and voicemail messages, he still hasn't answered her direct question: "Can you talk about one of these topics?" She also doesn't know if any of his clients are customers of the sponsoring company -- again, a requirement. So she's moving on to other sources who aren't (a) making her job harder than it needs to be and (b) trying to manipulate the situation.

I know, I know. He owns a PR firm so he's more interested in getting publicity for his clients than he is for his own firm. I get that. But it would have been much wiser for him to say, "Yes, I can address that first topic on your list, or "No, I don't have experience with any of these situations" and THEN added, "I'd also like to find out if any of my clients can help you. Would you mind if I asked a few if they are clients of Sponsor XYZ? Even if they're not right for your current list of assignments, they might be good sources in the future."

It's not that hard to be helpful. Publicists who understand this will be earning their fees, while those who don't won't be delivering the results their employers or clients think they're paying for.

Do you have a favorite publicist? Offer a shout out here in the comments section.


Echo Garrett said...

Jane Watkins, who represents the St. Croix Wine & Food Experience, is a real pro. She made my first assignment for Delta Sky a real pleasure because she listened to what I needed and then helped assemble great sources -- even when they weren't her client (my assignment was a three island roundup including St. Croix).She's smart and a real pro. One of the best PR people I've ever encountered.

Sandra Beckwith said...

Echo, thanks for sharing her name here! It's important to let the good pros know how much we appreciate their professionalism. I hope she's set up for Google Alerts and sees this.