Most PR People Just Don’t Get It
If there is a rift between journalists and public relations professionals, blame the thousands of bad PR people, according to Paul Entin, president of epr, a public relations firm in Washington, New Jersey.
“Most PR people waste so much time and energy worrying about petty details that they forget their email, phone call or news release is supposed to include a meaningful idea,” says Mr. Entin, who has earned awards for writing, media relations, and press kit development and was recently invited to join the Journalism Advisory Committee at Bucks County Community College in Newtown, Pennsylvania. “Nine out of ten of the news releases, queries and phone calls that I see coming from PR people to our publishing industry clients either lack substance or have no relevance to the editorial approach whatsoever. If I were a reporter, I might think twice before answering calls from PR people.”
Secondly, most PR people endlessly deliberate over the contents of their press kits, according to Mr. Entin. “They put the press kit on a pedestal as if it were an ancient religious artifact worthy of exhibit space in the Louvre, yet their finished products rarely meet the needs of the media,” he says. For example, press kits often overflow with useless promotional materials and trite story suggestions while being thin on professional quality photography, statistics and other information that could anchor a story. “I’ve been at trade shows where 95% of the press kits in the media room offered absolutely no reason for a reporter to look at it, let alone pick it up to see what’s inside.”
The failure of PR people to educate their own management about the nature of editorial may play a part in finished press kits and news releases that are heavy on fluff, according to Mr. Entin. “When PR people push the company story on the media, rather than uncover a news story that includes the company, they not only set themselves up to fail, but they also miss an opportunity to establish a stellar reputation with the media. PR people need to know what isn’t a story and have the courage to speak up and say so before they’re forced to explain why the story about the boss’s pet project didn’t get published.”
In addition, PR people speak amongst themselves as if there is a mystical, unwritten code of conduct about working with the media, according to Mr. Entin. “In trying to justify their salaries, PR people like to create a mystique about the media, as if only a select few could ever understand how a newsroom operates or could approach a reporter and achieve positive results,” he says. “The bottom line is too much time is spent creating databases rather than on devising clever, meaningful, timely story angles. Any competent reporter would run with a killer story, even if his or her name were spelled incorrectly.”