The title of this post was a bit of a link bait exercise, I don’t advocate the use of a #journofail hash tag, but I do think those of us in the PR industry need to end our fear of criticising journalists.
Tiffany Farrington, an Australian PR veteran and someone I respect a lot, recently published a post listing things that PRs dislike about journalists. The post contained a collection of anonymous irks PR people had sent in and was a good read. The post was not a rant, came on the back of a post which asked journalists what they disliked about PRs and was created with the desire of creating harmony amongst the community of PRs and journalists.
I loved the post and left a comment stating:
Thanks Tiff, refreshing to see the PRs’ side of this story told.
Whilst we may not work for the same side, our industries are undeniably intertwined. Over the years I have learnt lots about what to do and what not to do by paying attention to journalists in their articles, blog posts and presentations about how PRs should interact with them.
I hope journalists can benefit in a similar way from this post.
Frustratingly however, this was the only comment from someone in the PR industry on the post. Based on her high profile I assume Tiff’s blog is well visited, the blog was linked to from Mumbrella driving even more traffic, there were journalists that commented on it, so surely PRs were also reading it. Why then had none of my colleagues felt compelled to comment? My only assumption is that PR people are so concerned about the implications of criticising a journalist that it kept them silent.
The non willingness of my colleagues to speak up is not healthy in my mind. As I stated in my comment on Tiffany’s blog, whilst we have different drivers and objectives in our roles, the PR and journalism industries across many sectors (note I am not saying all) are undeniably intertwined. If those of us on the PR side are too scared to provide constructive criticism on how our industries can work better together then we rightly deserve to be treated in a subservient manner by journalists and continue to be frustrated by their actions.
I am not suggesting that en mass PRs should start airing their gripes with their journalist contacts, but when we experience mistakes, or poor practice (and this does happen), these should be addressed in a constructive manner. If we don’t, we risk a gap forming between our industries and a growing frustration on both sides.
In this spirit, my advice to journalists is to keep the mistakes us PR people make in perspective. PR agencies on the whole are filled with really smart, passionate and hard working people. PRs, like you, often work long hours in stressful environments with many demands. Sometimes this results in mistakes that frustrate you. Rather than launching into a tirade on Twitter, or elsewhere, when this happens, why not contact the person in question, or one of their colleagues you have a relationship with. Outline why their actions are causing you frustration and how they can avoid doing that again. I know you’re busy, we all are, but you might be surprised at how this small investment saves wasted time down the track and may even help you better achieve your objectives.
Of course I realise that in many cases what I am advocating above is the norm and there are countless examples of good relationships built on mutual respect between the PR and journalism industries. I am simply writing this post in the hope that we can increase these types of relationships and decrease the negatives ones.
I’d love to hear from PRs or journalists on reactions to this post.
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