What not to hear (hacks v flacks)

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1238Put yourself in the shoes of the under-pressure journalist.

You receive a call from Pippa French-Windows. It’s Monday; you’re busy.

“Hello, how are you? What did you do over the weekend?”

Or you receive a call from someone evidently lost in an alphabetical list.

Is that the Wimbledon paper?” – No. “Sorry, Wolverhampton?” No. “Wycombe??”

Or there’s this example of assumptiveness:

“We’d like to work with you on this”.

‘Work with me’? I think not. You’re on the other side of the fence, mate. Armed neutrality is the best you’re going to get.’

“What drives me NUTS is when a PR rings or e-mails to say he or she is “selling in” a story. That is a red rag to a bull.”

“Do not ring constantly just because you have sent me an email. I can read. If I want to follow it up, I can pick up a phone.  In 20 years of journalism I cannot remember a single case of a PR phoning me about an email they have sent where this call has been anything other than a useless irritation. Stop doing it – the practice does nothing to advance your cause and indeed damages it.”

These are just a few examples from the updated How Not To Guide to Public Relations, written by journalists for PR professionals and compiled by Hamish Thompson of Twelve Thirty Eight.

Why is it needed? The guide spells out what you need to know about today’s journalists:

“They are shorter of time than they have ever been. The days of predictable deadlines are long gone and most correspondents are writing stories for websites as well as for print. News breaks all the time. Patience is not a natural journalistic trait. Most are under intense pressure and have little time for waffle and pleasantries, especially ones with even the faintest whiff of insincerity. Journalists have an acute sense of smell. They can sniff half-truths, dodgy figures and window-dressing.”

So here’s some helpful advice:

“Why not try reading some newspapers? You might glean some idea of what makes a good story and what interests journalists. At the moment, many PRs seem to have little idea.”


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