Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My World...and Welcome to It

(quick disclaimer: the estate of Sheldon Leonard has provided no financial compensation to this blog; ditto for James Thurber)

If you’re in the PR biz, you likely know a publicist who really dislikes journalists.

I’ll admit to occasional pique about individual reporters who are impossible to contact, who see through my spin, or who otherwise make my world difficult by doing their jobs. But you won’t see me denigrating the whole profession – because I’d also be damning myself.

Yes, I’m one those combo flacks/hacks, taking on journalism assignments as long as they don’t conflict ethically with my PR clients. And when I’m playing editor or reporter, nobody's a bigger critic than me of bad PR practices – whether a press release that makes no sense or a publicist unable to take no for an answer.

And now journalist Les is annoyed with PR again. Not an easy task when I don't even have any journalism assignments at the moment!

Let me explain. Earlier this year, I freelanced as a reporter for MediaPost’s Marketing Daily. The gig ended five long months ago, so imagine my surprise when last week a PR agency pitched me a story idea and interview op.

Some quick detective work deduced that this agency had responded to an old ProfNet posting. So some pitching 101:

1. If you’re responding to a ProfNet or similar request, note deadlines! While my post did cite an ongoing need, there was also a clear end date noted.

2. When you’re sending a personal pitch to a reporter, check to see what he or she has reported on recently! That simple, useful step of familiarizing yourself with the journalist – and with his or her media outlet as well – would have shown this agency that I had written nothing recently for this pub.

To be completely honest here, it’s not journalist Les who’s upset by this incident – after all, what’s one more email out of hundreds? – but publicist Les. As a sole PR proprietor, I rarely see how bad a lot of PR is. But when I work as a journalist – as the above PR agency thought I was last week – the dross comes pouring in. I get ashamed of my prime profession – and more cognizant of why some journalists might just cut us out of the picture.

It’s always been easier for my journalist side to criticize PR folk than vice versa because – since the ultimate goal of PR is to get press – publicists simply can’t succeed without journalist cooperation. A journalist, meanwhile, can ignore or simply go around any individual publicist.

So what’s really gnawing at me is that in the current social media world, PR people en masse are becoming two-faced. They’re both pitching and creating media. Now that I’ve started this blog, I’m a “journalist” again, right? Perhaps there's already some PR person out there itching to pitch something to More of Les (of course, this blog has no real focus yet, and doesn't include any contact info – but a good PR person should be able to figure out who I am in, let’s say, five minutes?)

So, to any PR person who blogs or tweets, you're now on the other side too. You're both the pitcher and the pitchee. Welcome to my world.


  1. Les,

    Can we commiserate together when I'm in Brooklyn? I'm in the same boat. As the publisher and editor of Alvah's Books, I get tons of pitches and only a handful of the PR people have read through my site and what I read and review. I recently recieved a pitch that was obviously an email blast that had both my name and the site's name wrong.

    I realize that publicists are now doing the work of three people, but in their attempts to multitask, maybe they should slow down and check their work. Making a mistake on my name I can pardon (I've been called Rachel plenty of times) but refering to my site by a competitor's name, is just plain sloppy.

  2. Thanks Rebeca,

    I make it a point, btw, not to blame the individual publicist for many practices, since they're often following orders from agency superiors. But I think I'd make an exception for getting your name and publication wrong!

    See ya in Brooklyn