No relationship is perfect. Even Disney acclaims to this fact when ‘Frozen’ female-lead Anna, ends up with Kristoff, rather than ‘pretty boy’ Prince Hans.
At the end of the film, Anna, Princess of Arendelle eventually ends up falling for Kristoff, a true outdoorsman with a penchant for ‘eating boogers because every guy does it’, living and eating carrots with his mangy reindeer and taking an occasional bath here and there, seems like a MIS-MATCH made in heaven. He is a bit of a ‘Fixer-Upper’ anyway.
But no, we won’t be reviewing the dynamics of an animated couple’s relationship today but rather, the fact that every relationship seems to have its own quirks now and again. This holds true for corporate relationships as well, and more importantly, the one that we’re going to address in this post: The relationship between a PR firm and its corresponding media counterparts, AKA journalists and reporters.
While journalism and mass communication is thought to include broadcasting, print, advertising and public relations, the relationships between journalists and public relations have a tendency to be viewed as strained in the communication world. The question is, is this only a perceived problem or is there actual animosity between journalists and public relations professionals?
The first part of this post is to address how the media can piss off a PR firm. And before critics come barging through our office door with accusations of biasness and defamatory remarks, I will also address the flip side of the coin, how a PR firm can piss off the media. In the end, what this post aims to achieve is a simple list of what and what not to do when you are in these industries, so that we can all strive towards a common goal; to tell compelling stories, provide client satisfactions and getting the job done.
Things Media do to PR firms.
Manners cost nothing and politeness is the new virtue. Journalists are tight for time, we get that. Sometimes PR firms may call in at an exceptionally bad time (or perhaps these journalists were just having a bad day) but that is no excuse for being rude. Even if you are simply not interested in our pitches, a simple ‘thanks but no thanks’ would indicate that we ought to hit our pitches right out of your ballpark. PR Pros do not set out to be pests; we are just real people trying to do our jobs.
Story Goes Livewire, but Gets Short-Circuited.
A journalist has posted a story, that’s great news, but how is the PR team supposed to promote it if they were not notified about it in the first place? As tempting as it is to Facebook/Google/Twitter/Internet stalk journalists, PR Pros can’t be on someone’s tail 24 hours at a time.
Going ‘Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride’ On PR Pros
Getting an elusive top-tiered business media interview is sort of like getting invited to the Olympics. If an article comes out from that, it’s like winning the gold medal as well. So when PR Pros secure an interview, we run back to our clients, getting them all excited and prepped. However, a few short hours before the actual interview, we realised that the journalist has ‘bumped’ our story, simply because he decided that our client was not up his alleyway. Do you want us to get a heart attack? Because that is how we get a heart attack.
Things PR firms do to the media.
Skydiving Into a Pitch Without a Parachute
This is a no-brainer because marketing and public relations rides well on personalization. There is nothing more distasteful to a journalist than receiving pitches from PR flacks that don’t do a smattering of research.
Google exists for a reason and a good one at that, for people to use it. PR Pros who take the time to really understand a particular journalist’s tastes, themes and interests afford them the attention that their pitch needs. Additionally, it would be viable for PR Pros to learn and understand exactly what they are pitching. Being able to answer basic questions about a client’s business proves that they have done their homework.
The Clingy Girlfriend Calling
Most people would agree that having one clingy girlfriend is more than enough. PR firms who continuously (and repeatedly) make cold calls to journalists are egging them in the wrong direction. Following up multiple times with a telegram, fax or pigeon carrier is not going to break through the clutter either.
Journalist or not, writing is an arduous task. It is difficult to remain focused if the lines are going off the hook every 5 minutes and from a PR firm no less (probably to call if you have received our pitch/release in the last minute). At the very least, the journalist will begin to see red.
Social Media Outreach
Our world is way too connected, and this is burning us out. A work/life balance is becoming increasingly challenging and everyone (PR Pros and Journalists alike) are making efforts to separate our personal and professional lives. Studies have shown that reporters who were pitched through social media were less likely to respond to such pitches. No surprise there, most people do employ their Facebook and Twitter accounts as a platform for entertainment and leisure. How would you like if a sales rep was selling a product through your Facebook account? To play it safe, just stick with emailing them.
No amount of good practice from either side of the industry will placate the other at a 100% and turn them into best friends. But that’s okay. Journalists and PR Pros alike exist to satisfy clients (and readers). Our job as a PR firm is to advise our clients on how best to ride these media rapids while a journalist’s aim is to report on events in a balanced fashion. Like it or not, both industries have a symbiotic relationship with one another. If PRs and journalists can accept that we need each other and move forward with mutual respect and understanding, then both of our jobs will become ultimately more satisfying.
Posted by Stacey Choo, PR Executive, CorpMedia
Planners will cringe at the sight of this logistical nightmare. However the corporate and event planning industry is growing worldwide, and for PR practitioners it is almost impossible to steer clear. The job scope includes solidifying realistic objectives and budgets; choosing a venue; reviewing contracts; pleasing sponsors and participants; lodging; transportation; telecommunications; logistics and audio-visual requirements; hard and soft copy resources; and even food and beverage preferences… you get the gist. Everything seems to fall into the hands of the organisers to execute with expectations from all parties set unwaveringly at perfection.
Is there any way to pull through with all parties happy, and without pulling all your hair off its roots?
With attention to detail, patience, a smile and more than a couple of deep breaths, it can actually be a delight to put together. This past week, our team had the joy of hosting another international conference in collaboration with a longstanding client Aqua Culture Asia Pacific. Reflecting on this particular project and others, we’d like to share some pivotal pointers for your next successful conference planning:
Plan more-than-enough setup time
In planning events, there is always a race against time. With company or industry-wide conferences, there is no leeway for subpar performance. Professionalism is what they are paying for. Have an estimate of how much time you need to get everything and everyone in place. On top of that, add at least another 15-30 minutes so that you do not have a room full of workers frantically running around when the first delegate arrives. At this particular conference, we made sure we had everything set up and ready before 7.15 am when registration started at 7.30 am.
Also, always have a packing list, and keep it close to you!
Confirm and reconfirm your vendors
Average vendors serve multiple clients across different industries and purposes at any one time. It is inevitable that they have a lot to remember. Always get both written and verbal confirmation 48 hours before setup time. Email confirmations are still important as they help explicitly spell out your expectations, and also serve as evidence of your exchange.
Pre-empt and have contingency plans
What happens in case of unfavourable weather?
What happens if there is a competing event at your venue?
What happens if there is a closure of venue?
What happens if you have to cancel your event?
These are not easy to plan for, but if left to the day of the event itself, it will be a disaster! Pre-empt as many adverse situations and plot out contingency plans at least two weeks in advance to allow for good measure. Then, even if you have to cancel the event, you will have a system of information dissemination to all of your guests.
Schedule a walkthrough with your clients and team
In the course of planning, emails, orders and spreadsheets would definitely have been exchanged in communication of details between all parties. Organisers should not make the mistake of thinking that it is sufficient to rely on documents to paint a picture of how the event will run. Walk through the program and your vision with your clients and staff onsite whenever you can. Play out each moment and its details as though it were happening right in front of you. This helps ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Delegate, delegate, delegate
As the director, you undoubtedly know the details best and will be the one running the show. Always make sure you have a checklist ready, outlining responsibilities with clear expectations for each member of the team. With that being said, have faith in your team and don’t be afraid to delegate. Avoid the trap of running the show alone and micro-managing, no matter how small the event may be. Things are bound to happen and they work best when you have a team you trust battling alongside. Also, don’t be afraid to spend a couple of hundred more to hire additional hands. Labour shortage can actually cause bigger issues than going over budget.
Remember, your client’s success is your success. So get yourself as engaged and invested in your client’s project as you possibly can. This way, you understand where they are coming from and where they need to go in terms of achieving their conference objectives. Your job is to get them there – as smoothly as possible.
Posted by Yiwen Ng, PR Executive, Corporate Media