Forget #PRFail, what about #Journofail?

2484934370 2c3df90279 b Forget #PRFail, what about #Journofail?

Image by Greekadman - http://bit.ly/aqw05t

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.

If you enjoyed this post why don’t you subscribe to my blog via RSS or email by following this link. Or alternatively follow me on Twitter.If you enjoyed this post why not subscribe to my blog via RSS or email by following this link. Also whilst you’re at it why not follow me on Twitter .

  • Narky Journo

    I’m a journo and, after an interview in which I decided to use interruption as a tactic (the interviewee was quoting from the corporate bible and not much else, IMHO), then later took a call from the PR who wondered why – in robust terms – I’d been narky in the interview.
    I respect the PR concerned more for having done so.

    • http://matthewgain.com Matthew Gain

      Thanks for your comment Narky Journo.

      The rule seems to be that us PRs can’t publicly criticise you journalists, and you journalists can’t publicly admit you have respect for us PRs. Complicated! :-)

      • Peeyaa

        Indeed. I once asked why journos were always quick to #PRfail, but rarely seemed happy to #PRsuccess (and yes, there is such a thing!). The response was that to do so publicly might reveal the journo to be “in the pocket” of the PR industry. Journos sometimes behave as if there is shame in having a positive relationship with a PR. We’re not hookers! We’re business associates.

      • Narky Journo

        @MG Journos do talk about good PRs to each other. The good ones get mobbed. The duds get avoided. I know I congregate to the good ones and we have good relationships.
        @Peepya I think journos reach for the #fail because PR keeps throwing kids at us and it gets annoying to teach the same agency – albeit different people – the same stuff over and over. It’s not a journo’s job to constantly rebuild agency corporate memory.

        • http://matthewgain.com Matthew Gain

          Ill prepared junior staff, managed by only slightly less junior staff is the biggest issue in the relationship between journalists and PRs in my opinion. It may be cheaper in the short run, but is a surefire way to ruin your agency’s reputation.

          I completely understand your frustration there Narky Journo.

  • Narky Journo

    I'm a journo and, after an interview in which I decided to use interruption as a tactic (the interviewee was quoting from the corporate bible and not much else, IMHO), then later took a call from the PR who wondered why – in robust terms – I'd been narky in the interview.I respect the PR concerned more for having done so.

  • http://matthewgain.com Matthew Gain

    Thanks for your comment Narky Journo. The rule seems to be that us PRs can't publicly criticise you journalists, and you journalists can't publicly admit you have respect for us PRs. Complicated! :-)

  • Chris

    I have to say most, if not all the gripes by PRs on the Social Diary blog are valid and I sure have experienced some of them! Overall though my relationships are pretty good so I don’t have too much to complain about on a daily basis. Having said that, I do have one other gripe to add which has been happening a bit of late, from glossies in particular – publications will only run an editorial if client spends $$$ or contra for advertising/promotion.

    • http://matthewgain.com Matthew Gain

      I haven’t pitched a glossy magazine for a long time, but I think the reality is that we will start to see a lot more blurring of the lines between editorial and paid content.

      Despite transparency in most cases, the separation of editorial and paid content on blogs and new media doesn’t exist like it did in the old world. As the traditional media increasingly competes with new media they too will blur the lines in an attempt to compete, keep costs down and provide compelling options for advertisers.

  • Chris

    I have to say most, if not all the gripes by PRs on the Social Diary blog are valid and I sure have experienced some of them! Overall though my relationships are pretty good so I don't have too much to complain about on a daily basis. Having said that, I do have one other gripe to add which has been happening a bit of late, from glossies in particular – publications will only run an editorial if client spends $$$ or contra for advertising/promotion.

  • http://justanotherprblog.com Karalee

    Matt, totally agree with your assertions. When I was working in media relations, it was imperative to approach the journalist/pr relationship with honesty and a bit of ‘no fear’ attitude.

    Much like you would want constructive feedback from a journalist on your ‘pitching approach’ which then enables you to learn and work better (for the journalist and your client), I haven’t hesitated to provide the same feedback to journalists who I have built a level of trust with. By pushing back and providing that feedback to a journalist, you show not only your willingness to work together, but also IMHO an understanding of their needs and practice. Just as long as this feedback doesn’t involve ‘demands for copy reviewing’ etc ;)

    I can think of a couple of examples where a PR pro has blogged or written about a negative experience with a journalist, and has been bollocked for it by journalists and other ‘media’ people. What does this show young and upcoming juniors in the PR industry? They need to understand, the PR/media relationship is completely symbiotic. Each relies on eachother. And therefore, each should feel capable of providing feedback and questioning eachother’s practice. As long as we all share a beer and a laugh at the end of it though :)

    • http://yourtechlife.com Trevor Long

      GUILTY AS CHARGED – Have many times not responded – frankly, working on the assumption that a lot of stuff is just ‘bulked’ out.

      I ALWAYS (Fingers crossed no examples come up otherwise) respond if the contact is clearly custom – Ie: “Hi Trevor, Just wondering if this might suit your Thursday show on 2GB”… Clearly this person knows WHAT I do, let alone when…. if it’s of no use – I will say so..

      It can be frustrating to get the ‘so, what did you do with it, where did you run it,’ etc.. but i totally understand the need to provide client info…

      Anyway… nice stuff.. I think it’s all food for thought, and I for one have no problem being corrected…

      It’s all a two way street, I can’t operate without PR’s, “hopefully” they need me at times too:)

      • http://matthewgain.com Matthew Gain

        Hey Trevor thanks for your comments. It definitely is a two way street and we need you guys as much as you need us.

        Speak soon.

    • http://matthewgain.com Matthew Gain

      Thanks for your comments Karalee – as I have said above I have learnt so much by listening to journalists, so hopefully they can learn from us too.

      And yes more beer – more beer will help the relationships all round.

  • http://justanotherprblog.com Karalee

    Matt, totally agree with your assertions. When I was working in media relations, it was imperative to approach the journalist/pr relationship with honesty and a bit of 'no fear' attitude. Much like you would want constructive feedback from a journalist on your 'pitching approach' which then enables you to learn and work better (for the journalist and your client), I haven't hesitated to provide the same feedback to journalists who I have built a level of trust with. By pushing back and providing that feedback to a journalist, you show not only your willingness to work together, but also IMHO an understanding of their needs and practice. Just as long as this feedback doesn't involve 'demands for copy reviewing' etc ;)I can think of a couple of examples where a PR pro has blogged or written about a negative experience with a journalist, and has been bollocked for it by journalists and other 'media' people. What does this show young and upcoming juniors in the PR industry? They need to understand, the PR/media relationship is completely symbiotic. Each relies on eachother. And therefore, each should feel capable of providing feedback and questioning eachother's practice. As long as we all share a beer and a laugh at the end of it though :)

  • http://yourtechlife.com Trevor Long

    GUILTY AS CHARGED – Have many times not responded – frankly, working on the assumption that a lot of stuff is just 'bulked' out.I ALWAYS (Fingers crossed no examples come up otherwise) respond if the contact is clearly custom – Ie: "Hi Trevor, Just wondering if this might suit your Thursday show on 2GB"… Clearly this person knows WHAT I do, let alone when…. if it's of no use – I will say so..It can be frustrating to get the 'so, what did you do with it, where did you run it,' etc.. but i totally understand the need to provide client info… Anyway… nice stuff.. I think it's all food for thought, and I for one have no problem being corrected… It's all a two way street, I can't operate without PR's, "hopefully" they need me at times too:)

  • Narky Journo

    @MG Journos do talk about good PRs to each other. The good ones get mobbed. The duds get avoided. I know I congregate to the good ones and we have good relationships.@Peepya I think journos reach for the #fail because PR keeps throwing kids at us and it gets annoying to teach the same agency – albeit different people – the same stuff over and over. It's not a journo's job to constantly rebuild agency corporate memory.

  • http://matthewgain.com Matthew Gain

    Hey Trevor thanks for your comments. It definitely is a two way street and we need you guys as much as you need us. Speak soon.

  • http://matthewgain.com Matthew Gain

    Thanks for your comments Karalee – as I have said above I have learnt so much by listening to journalists, so hopefully they can learn from us too.And yes more beer – more beer will help the relationships all round.

  • http://matthewgain.com Matthew Gain

    I haven't pitched a glossy magazine for a long time, but I think the reality is that we will start to see a lot more blurring of the lines between editorial and paid content. Despite transparency in most cases, the separation of editorial and paid content on blogs and new media doesn't exist like it did in the old world. As the traditional media increasingly competes with new media they too will blur the lines in an attempt to compete, keep costs down and provide compelling options for advertisers.

  • http://matthewgain.com Matthew Gain

    Ill prepared junior staff, managed by only slightly less junior staff is the biggest issue in the relationship between journalists and PRs in my opinion. It may be cheaper in the short run, but is a surefire way to ruin your agency's reputation. I completely understand your frustration there Narky Journo.

  • Kirily

    I think this is a valid comment on society at large and is not just a PR/journo issue. It is refreshing to see that this whinge to a third party problem is not just confined to the industries I exist in. I agree with the idea that more can be gained going back to the source of the apparent problem than jumping the gun and cutting them out of your environment and nothing can be gained at all in trying to cut them out of others environments.

    My favorite co-workers and clients are the one that come straight back to me with the problems they have with my designs. It gives me the opportunity to either explain the design or change it. And in some cases, agree that we will not resolve it and we both go our separate ways.

    In my mind, it is impossible to create a best fit with another straight away, but you can always work a solution if both parties are willing. It is getting over the ego first that is the hard part.

  • Kirily

    I think this is a valid comment on society at large and is not just a PR/journo issue. It is refreshing to see that this whinge to a third party problem is not just confined to the industries I exist in. I agree with the idea that more can be gained going back to the source of the apparent problem than jumping the gun and cutting them out of your environment and nothing can be gained at all in trying to cut them out of others environments. My favorite co-workers and clients are the one that come straight back to me with the problems they have with my designs. It gives me the opportunity to either explain the design or change it. And in some cases, agree that we will not resolve it and we both go our separate ways.In my mind, it is impossible to create a best fit with another straight away, but you can always work a solution if both parties are willing. It is getting over the ego first that is the hard part.

  • Peeyaa

    Indeed. I once asked why journos were always quick to #PRfail, but rarely seemed happy to #PRsuccess (and yes, there is such a thing!). The response was that to do so publicly might reveal the journo to be “in the pocket” of the PR industry. Journos sometimes behave as if there is shame in having a positive relationship with a PR. We're not hookers! We're business associates.

  • Victory Dance

    “Smart, passionate and hard working” ?

    Smart, passionate, hard-working suckers maybe!

    We have *all* the power. We own all you whiny PR bitches and there’s *nothing* you can do but suck it up.

    In your FACES!!!

  • Victory Dance

    "Smart, passionate and hard working" ?Smart, passionate, hard-working suckers maybe!We have *all* the power. We own all you whiny PR bitches and there's *nothing* you can do but suck it up. In your FACES!!!

  • http://twitter.com/newsmaker2 Leila – NewsMaker

    This post really hits home for me – like many of us, I have worked on both sides of the fence and have tried to show respect either way. Journos need to listen to a lot of breathless pitches (including from me) so you have to sympathise if a PR person's way off the mark, but PR people in general do a lot of legwork on their behalf. Journos generally appreciate this but there is a minority that likes to play the power game and have PRs jumping through hoops. But the balance of media power is changing rapidly and I'm reminded of a former editor's advice "be nice to people on the way up, because you never know who you'll meet on the way down".

  • http://twitter.com/newsmaker2 Leila – NewsMaker

    This post really hits home for me – like many of us, I have worked on both sides of the fence and have tried to show respect either way. Journos need to listen to a lot of breathless pitches (including from me) so you have to sympathise if a PR person’s way off the mark, but PR people in general do a lot of legwork on their behalf. Journos generally appreciate this but there is a minority that likes to play the power game and have PRs jumping through hoops. But the balance of media power is changing rapidly and I’m reminded of a former editor’s advice “be nice to people on the way up, because you never know who you’ll meet on the way down”.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevenspenser Steven Spenser

    (Disclosure: I was an editor, and later free-lance writer, with both AP & The Seattle Times before moving into PR.)

    You wrote on your blog that journalists “…[rather] than launching into a tirade on Twitter… [should] 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.”

    I can’t imagine any journalist bothering to take the time to do something like this. Not only do they not care about fixing our deficient pitching technique, they also don’t have the time to tell us how we should be doing our jobs the right way.

    Besides, all the necessary information about an outlet or reporter’s dedlines, favorite topics, contact preferences, etc., is readily available with only a little research and some phone calls. No practitioner ever has a good excuse for not knowing what a targeted journalist likes.
    —————–
    As for speaking up when we encounter difficult journalists who won’t play ball with us: What would be the point?

    Few human beings are capable of accepting truly “constructive” criticism without feeling defensive. To many people, criticism is simply that: criticism, and they interpret all criticism as uniformly negative and a personal attack.

    If you tell a journalist that you have (what you feel is) a legitimate gripe about your interaction with her, all you’re going to accomplish is irritating her, which makes you less effective in any future interaction–assuming she even takes your calls from then on.

    I read the blog post your blog post is based on. Practitioners complained that journalists wouldn’t respond at all; get irritated at follow-ups; refuse to give indications whether they’ll use your story and get angry when we share it with a competing outlet; don’t mention clients or sponsors; and misquote egregiously.

    Seriously–you think we should complain to the New York Times that its reporters won’t return our calls, don’t let us know if they’ll use our story, and don’t mention our clients when a story does appear? Who can afford to appear that petty?

    Speaking as someone with experience on the other side of the fence, I can tell you that the single biggest reason journalists don’t respond to pitches is **because they’re not interested!** That shouldn’t be so difficult to figure out. Assuming they got your pitch, if they were interested, they’d contact you.

    Every now and then, of course, follow-up calls actually result in a successful pitch, but, in my experience, few practitioners know how to do them properly, and journalists often view them as a waste of time. The single biggest complaint I hear from journalists at PR forums is that they hate being asked, “Did you get my press release?” Their second most frequent irritation is being contacted on dedline, but if the practitioner is skilled and practiced enough to paint an enticing pitch in 30 seconds, most journalists will hear you out.

    Journalists rarely mention event sponsors, since they’re often not relevant to the news story. And they hate seeing a story they bit on appear in a competing outlet, so you’ll never win on that particular point.

    Out of all the scenarios listed in the original blog post, the only time complaining to a journalist ever makes sense is when a misquote appears in print. The best way to prevent misquotes is to sit in on the interview and record it. At the end, ask the interviewer to check quotes before publication. (With a larger magazine, ask to have their fact-checker call you to confirm the quotes that will be printed.) If a misquote is printed, then you can legitimately complain to the journalist and even her editor, but you’ll need your interview transcript before you even pick up the fone.

    • http://matthewgain.com Matthew Gain

      Thanks for your comments Stephen and great to have your perspective from both sides of the fence.

      In response to your first comment on journalists not having the time to fix our pitch technique, I agree with the majority of your position. I understand journalists are busy, as I state, I am not suggesting they spend their time fixing our technique. My position rather is if something irritates a journalist so much that they want to launch a tirade on Twitter about it – don’t. I am merely suggesting they re-channel the time spent on attacking on a PR into providing constructive criticism to the PR, privately.

      Regarding your suggestion that constructive criticism risks causing irritation and is best avoided. I think this is a very poor basis for not providing criticism. This risk is inherent in every instance where constructive criticism is provided. A world without constructive criticism would be highly dysfunctional. The relationship between journalists and PRs without constructive criticism from both sides is dysfunctional – hence the reason for me writing the post.

      On the whole I agree with your responses to the original post on the other blog. My post was not an endorsement that the gripes from other PRs were legitimate.

      Thanks again for your comments – great to have them included.

      • http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevenspenser Steven Spenser

        >>”A world without constructive criticism would be highly dysfunctional.”<<

        And yet, that is the current state of the world. We live in a dysfunctional society, filled with dysfunctional citizens "represented" by a dysfunctional government that acts dysfunctionally at home and on the international stage. The marketplace is filled with dysfunctional corporations that operate in their shareholders' interests instead of the commonweal's. Worse, other nations & societies are even more dysfunctional. This should not come as news to any thinking person–it's plainly evident to anyone who follows business developments, U.S. elections, the legislative process, and international diplomacy. One has only to look at BP, Toyota, the Mideast and the U.S. Congress to see the latest evidence of this.

        PR practitioners need journalists more than journalists need our stories. Therefore, journalists have almost all the advantage in our asymmetric relationship–except for when practitioners control access to a source a journalist really wants to interview. (However, I imagine exclusives are not as commonplace a PR tactic as they once were.)

        This explains why the relationship already *is*, IMO, dysfunctional. Given that, why should any practitioner make the situation worse by complaining?

        Think back on the last time someone prefaced their words to you with "Now, don't take this the wrong way, but…" or "What I'm about to say is intended in the best possible spirit…" Didn't you mentally flinch and gird yourself for hearing something you feared would be distressing? You might even have taken a breath and held it. Unless you've led a life of calm contemplation and have an unassailable self-confidence, I'm certain you felt at least some baseline level of increased physical and emotional tension.

        Put yourself in the journalist's place: If you think you know how to do your job well, would *you* welcome being told by someone–not a colleague, not even a person in your industry–that you've done it poorly? Of course not.

        Constructive criticism is only constructive when the recipient requests it, or is in a relationship–such as student & teacher, athlete & coach, boss & worker or mentor & protege–where critiquing performance or effort is a mutually accepted element of the knowledge-sharing process. Outside of those dynamics, if constructive criticism is unsolicited, it is simply criticism. In such cases, the only person that feels better from "constructive" criticism is the sender–not the recipient. Most people are simply not able to control their instinctive, defensive reaction to criticism, and they're going to resent being criticized, however well-intentioned it may be.

        Journalists are as human as the rest of us. I maintain that they are not going to react well to complaints–however justified–from PR practitioners. Telling a journalist how she's done her job wrong is simply going to poison the well.

        Why intentionally inject further dysfunction?

        As for journalists' public attacks on the PR industry…Well, if a journalist uses the time spent composing her expose/tirade to inform/correct the offending practitioner, she's only reaching a single individual. But if she publishes something about the practitioner's mistakes, then she can have a much greater impact on the PR industry by having her cautionary tale reach thousands of other practitioners.

        (Same amount of time) X (Single Conversation) = Minimum Impact
        (Same amount of time) X (Greater Audience) = Greater Impact.

        Consider the multiplier effect: If every irritated journalist took the time to tell off every offending PR practitioner, journalists would run out of time for their own work. OTOH, by holding up a single practitioner as an instructive example, journalists' rants can have a much greater ripple effect–and one that lasts farther into the future. (Since a single conversation is ephemeral, but a published tirade remains available in the media where others can come across it in the future and adjust their behavior accordingly.)

        (Same amount of time) X (Single Conversation) = Minimum, *One-time* Impact
        (Same amount of time) X (Greater Audience) = Greater, *Continuing* Impact.

        Who can blame the journalist for preferring maximum corrective exposure?

        Seems to me that published tirades are a higher, more valuable form of the constructive criticism you think journalists should provide–except they benefit the entire PR industry, rather than simply a single practitioner.

        • http://matthewgain.com Matthew Gain

          Thanks again Steven for taking the time to expand on your views.

          Regarding your comment about the world being dysfunctional already. Rest assured I do realise the world is not perfect. And rest well assured that my call to action was not done with the expected result being a perfect world. The fact that dysfunction exists does not mean we should be striving to reduce it in our professional relationships.

          On constructive criticism. I do believe it has a place outside of the certain relationships you describe. I also find it somewhat confusing that you argue constructive criticism doesn’t have a place when it is coming from the PR to the journalist, but a journalist is well within their rights and in fact simply exercising efficiency when they launch a very public form of constructive criticism.

          Irrespective, I appreciate the time you have taken to expand on your point of view and suspect many will agree with you. Ultimately however I think you and I will have to agree to disagree.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevenspenser Steven Spenser

    (Disclosure: I was an editor, and later free-lance writer, with both AP & The Seattle Times before moving into PR.)You wrote on your blog that journalists "…[rather] than launching into a tirade on Twitter… [should] 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."I can't imagine any journalist bothering to take the time to do something like this. Not only do they not care about fixing our deficient pitching technique, they also don't have the time to tell us how we should be doing our jobs the right way.Besides, all the necessary information about an outlet or reporter's dedlines, favorite topics, contact preferences, etc., is readily available with only a little research and some phone calls. No practitioner ever has a good excuse for not knowing what a targeted journalist likes.—————–As for speaking up when we encounter difficult journalists who won't play ball with us: What would be the point?Few human beings are capable of accepting truly "constructive" criticism without feeling defensive. To many people, criticism is simply that: criticism, and they interpret all criticism as uniformly negative and a personal attack.If you tell a journalist that you have (what you feel is) a legitimate gripe about your interaction with her, all you're going to accomplish is irritating her, which makes you less effective in any future interaction–assuming she even takes your calls from then on.I read the blog post your blog post is based on. Practitioners complained that journalists wouldn't respond at all; get irritated at follow-ups; refuse to give indications whether they'll use your story and get angry when we share it with a competing outlet; don't mention clients or sponsors; and misquote egregiously.Seriously–you think we should complain to the New York Times that its reporters won't return our calls, don't let us know if they'll use our story, and don't mention our clients when a story does appear? Who can afford to appear that petty?Speaking as someone with experience on the other side of the fence, I can tell you that the single biggest reason journalists don't respond to pitches is **because they're not interested!** That shouldn't be so difficult to figure out. Assuming they got your pitch, if they were interested, they'd contact you.Every now and then, of course, follow-up calls actually result in a successful pitch, but, in my experience, few practitioners know how to do them properly, and journalists often view them as a waste of time. The single biggest complaint I hear from journalists at PR forums is that they hate being asked, "Did you get my press release?" Their second most frequent irritation is being contacted on dedline, but if the practitioner is skilled and practiced enough to paint an enticing pitch in 30 seconds, most journalists will hear you out.Journalists rarely mention event sponsors, since they're often not relevant to the news story. And they hate seeing a story they bit on appear in a competing outlet, so you'll never win on that particular point.Out of all the scenarios listed in the original blog post, the only time complaining to a journalist ever makes sense is when a misquote appears in print. The best way to prevent misquotes is to sit in on the interview and record it. At the end, ask the interviewer to check quotes before publication. (With a larger magazine, ask to have their fact-checker call you to confirm the quotes that will be printed.) If a misquote is printed, then you can legitimately complain to the journalist and even her editor, but you'll need your interview transcript before you even pick up the fone.

  • http://matthewgain.com Matthew Gain

    Thanks for your comments Stephen and great to have your perspective from both sides of the fence.In response to your first comment on journalists not having the time to fix our pitch technique, I agree with the majority of your position. I understand journalists are busy, as I state, I am not suggesting they spend their time fixing our technique. My position rather is if something irritates a journalist so much that they want to launch a tirade on Twitter about it – don't. I am merely suggesting they re-channel the time spent on attacking on a PR into providing constructive criticism to the PR, privately.Regarding your suggestion that constructive criticism risks causing irritation and is best avoided. I think this is a very poor basis for not providing criticism. This risk is inherent in every instance where constructive criticism is provided. A world without constructive criticism would be highly dysfunctional. The relationship between journalists and PRs without constructive criticism from both sides is dysfunctional – hence the reason for me writing the post. On the whole I agree with your responses to the original post on the other blog. My post was not an endorsement that the gripes from other PRs were legitimate. Thanks again for your comments – great to have them included.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevenspenser Steven Spenser

    >>"A world without constructive criticism would be highly dysfunctional."<<And yet, that is the current state of the world. We live in a dysfunctional society, filled with dysfunctional citizens "represented" by a dysfunctional government that acts dysfunctionally at home and on the international stage. The marketplace is filled with dysfunctional corporations that operate in their shareholders' interests instead of the commonweal's. Worse, other nations & societies are even more dysfunctional. This should not come as news to any thinking person–it's plainly evident to anyone who follows business developments, U.S. elections, the legislative process, and international diplomacy. One has only to look at BP, Toyota, the Mideast and the U.S. Congress to see the latest evidence of this.PR practitioners need journalists more than journalists need our stories. Therefore, journalists have almost all the advantage in our asymmetric relationship–except for when practitioners control access to a source a journalist really wants to interview. (However, I imagine exclusives are not as commonplace a PR tactic as they once were.)This explains why the relationship already *is*, IMO, dysfunctional. Given that, why should any practitioner make the situation worse by complaining?Think back on the last time someone prefaced their words to you with "Now, don't take this the wrong way, but…" or "What I'm about to say is intended in the best possible spirit…" Didn't you mentally flinch and gird yourself for hearing something you feared would be distressing? You might even have taken a breath and held it. Unless you've led a life of calm contemplation and have an unassailable self-confidence, I'm certain you felt at least some baseline level of increased physical and emotional tension.Put yourself in the journalist's place: If you think you know how to do your job well, would *you* welcome being told by someone–not a colleague, not even a person in your industry–that you've done it poorly? Of course not.Constructive criticism is only constructive when the recipient requests it, or is in a relationship–such as student & teacher, athlete & coach, boss & worker or mentor & protege–where critiquing performance or effort is a mutually accepted element of the knowledge-sharing process. Outside of those dynamics, if constructive criticism is unsolicited, it is simply criticism. In such cases, the only person that feels better from "constructive" criticism is the sender–not the recipient. Most people are simply not able to control their instinctive, defensive reaction to criticism, and they're going to resent being criticized, however well-intentioned it may be.Journalists are as human as the rest of us. I maintain that they are not going to react well to complaints–however justified–from PR practitioners. Telling a journalist how she's done her job wrong is simply going to poison the well.Why intentionally inject further dysfunction? As for journalists' public attacks on the PR industry…Well, if a journalist uses the time spent composing her expose/tirade to inform/correct the offending practitioner, she's only reaching a single individual. But if she publishes something about the practitioner's mistakes, then she can have a much greater impact on the PR industry by having her cautionary tale reach thousands of other practitioners.(Same amount of time) X (Single Conversation) = Minimum Impact(Same amount of time) X (Greater Audience) = Greater Impact.Consider the multiplier effect: If every irritated journalist took the time to tell off every offending PR practitioner, journalists would run out of time for their own work. OTOH, by holding up a single practitioner as an instructive example, journalists' rants can have a much greater ripple effect–and one that lasts farther into the future. (Since a single conversation is ephemeral, but a published tirade remains available in the media where others can come across it in the future and adjust their behavior accordingly.)(Same amount of time) X (Single Conversation) = Minimum, *One-time* Impact(Same amount of time) X (Greater Audience) = Greater, *Continuing* Impact.Who can blame the journalist for preferring maximum corrective exposure?Seems to me that published tirades are a higher, more valuable form of the constructive criticism you think journalists should provide–except they benefit the entire PR industry, rather than simply a single practitioner.

  • http://matthewgain.com Matthew Gain

    Thanks again Steven for taking the time to expand on your views.Regarding your comment about the world being dysfunctional already. Rest assured I do realise the world is not perfect. And rest well assured that my call to action was not done with the expected result being a perfect world. The fact that dysfunction exists does not mean we should be striving to reduce it in our professional relationships.On constructive criticism. I do believe it has a place outside of the certain relationships you describe. I also find it somewhat confusing that you argue constructive criticism doesn't have a place when it is coming from the PR to the journalist, but a journalist is well within their rights and in fact simply exercising efficiency when they launch a very public form of constructive criticism. Irrespective, I appreciate the time you have taken to expand on your point of view and suspect many will agree with you. Ultimately however I think you and I will have to agree to disagree.

  • http://matthewgain.com Matthew Gain

    Thanks again Steven for taking the time to expand on your views.Regarding your comment about the world being dysfunctional already. Rest assured I do realise the world is not perfect. And rest well assured that my call to action was not done with the expected result being a perfect world. The fact that dysfunction exists does not mean we should be striving to reduce it in our professional relationships.On constructive criticism. I do believe it has a place outside of the certain relationships you describe. I also find it somewhat confusing that you argue constructive criticism doesn't have a place when it is coming from the PR to the journalist, but a journalist is well within their rights and in fact simply exercising efficiency when they launch a very public form of constructive criticism. Irrespective, I appreciate the time you have taken to expand on your point of view and suspect many will agree with you. Ultimately however I think you and I will have to agree to disagree.

  • Pingback: So You Want To Write a Media Release and Influence a Journalist? Part 4 | Spotlight on Marketing