Why are we not listening to journalists about how to best engage with them???

I despair. I absolutely despair. How is it, that in 2014, there are still PRs and PR agencies out there that are spamming journalists with irrelevant and non-newsworthy press releases and stories?? And even worst, why are there still PRs and PR Agencies that are phoning journalists asking if they have received a press release! In what world is this going to be effective??

This is what the latest research from DWPub found, who published the results of a survey into “What do journalists think of PR people”. What bothers me so much is that so little has changed in the ten or so years I’ve been involved in PR. Ten years ago journalists were telling me NOT to call and ask if they had received a press release. Ten years ago journalists were telling me to RESEARCH the publication and stories that they penned and to make sure that I was pitching RELEVANT information and stories. And no doubt this same conversation has been going on for decades in one way or another.

No wonder the relationship between journalists and PR types is so strained.

According to the research, 80% of journalists said that “Lack of understanding of your publication and subject area” is their greatest frustration with PR people. As DWPub’s own analysis says:

“There’s a pattern emerging – all they (journalists) really want is for the PR to know what they cover and to make sure whatever they’re pitching is relevant and newsworthy”

Which, lets be honest, isn’t a lot to ask.

But it’s the agencies that are to blame. Junior PR types are not born with the idea to follow up an email (within a few minutes) with a call to ask if the journalists received the press release – they are being instructed by their experienced comrades. Mass emailing of a release to hundreds of journalists is being pushed from the top of these agencies (including some I’ve recently worked with – see my recent post on saying no) for reasons that escape me. Please stop.

So please – as an industry – lets all heed this advice from journalists. After all, we all want positive coverage, so lets all stop phoning journalists to ask if they received a press release (they did!) and start taking a moment to be sure that the story is newsworthy, and that it is relevant for both the journalist and the publication.

I’ll leave you with a favourite comment highlighted in the report, which kinda sums up my (and the journalists) point:

Pitch relevant news to the relevant publication. I can’t believe we still get PRs calling the news desk of the Daily Star and asking for our Fine Arts editor!”

Here’s a link to the full survey: http://blog.dwpub.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/DWPub-journalist-survey-What-do-journalists-think-of-PR-people.pdf

And DWPub’s own press release (lets hope they didn’t do a mass email sell-in with follow up phone call: http://blog.dwpub.com/2014/10/journalists-think-pr-professsionals/#.VDWzv2ddV3I

Going the wrong way in your PR career – from in-house to agency, and why is it so hard?

We all know how a PR career usually works. You spend your formative years in a PR agency. You find a specialism or sector. You work long hours, win clients, lose clients, fall out with journalists, work hard and play hard. But then, when the time is right, you jump ship and cross to the ‘other side’ – you find yourself a comfortable in-house role to see out the rest of your career.

I’m generalising here of course. Many PR professionals stay on the agency side, and some start and finish in-house. But today I want to talk about the other guys. Those that start in-house and then after making their mark quite fancy hopping the other way into a PR agency. While it’s not unheard of, it remains frowned upon. In-house managers will happily take on someone who only has agency experience, but how many hiring managers from an agency will take on someone from an exclusively in-house background??

Obviously this is pretty much determined by level and experience. I doubt if someone with one or two years in-house experience would have any trouble finding an Account Exec level role in an agency. but how about a seven/eight year veteran (can you be a veteran after eight years? a discussion for another blog post perhaps), looking to return to agency at around AD or similar level? (e.g. me!)

Please forgive a sporting analogy here (particularly if you’re not that into sports), but I’ve always thought of the difference to that of 5 aside and 11 aside football (or Rugby 7’s and full International if you prefer). It’s the same sport, but the skills and talents are slightly different. And being good at one, doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be good at the other.

But how are the PR skills between agency and in-house different? Are they that different? What is it that scares agency types about hiring an in-house guy like me?

OK, so maybe we don’t have to worry about time sheets, but juggling multiple issues, with multiple stakeholders goes hand in hand with an in-house role, just as it does with agency work. In fact, doesn’t being immersed within a business offer a different perspective to those who have only ever experienced life within an agency?

New business? Yep, so this may well be a major factor in why it’s hard to go from in-house to a senior agency role. However, by sitting client side for so long, and having been pitched to so often we can spot a bad pitch from twenty paces. And don’t get me started on the number of times I’ve been at a networking event and an agency type has tried to ‘new business’ me – again, experience and being on the end of it surely offers an interesting perspective, and a view point not necessary available from within an agency?

I appreciate that there is a chance that I’m very wrong about this and that they are not just different sports, but one that uses your hands and one that uses a bat (a future blog post will (hopefully) cover my experience of working in an agency after being in-house for so long).

Does anyone have experience of going about your PR career the wrong way? Or maybe there are some hiring managers that are adverse to taking an in-house type into an agency – do please share your thoughts.

Ollie Lawson