Near or Far...Where are We on Publicist and Media Relationships?
I've been in the PR industry for over 20 years, and times have certainly changed. Sometimes I think it's for the better, and then other times, not so much. How far are we from the days where relationships between publicists and reporters/editors were respected and mutually beneficial?
I've talked before about how today's digital world puts pressure on reporters to get content out there, and quickly. Publicists to some extent feel this stress because we too, want our clients' news out there in a timely manner, but in a factual and favorable way. Clients, on the other hand, don't understand the workings of the media, and frankly, don't have the time to. In fact, many are fearful of the media.
I've had a couple of experiences in recent memory which have left me puzzled and wondering about the future of our industry and its relationships. Are we near or far?
A few years ago, I sent out a press release for a highly respected commercial real estate (CRE) client with offices across the U.S. This particular release was for their Atlanta office, and I sent it to a CRE reporter there to whom I've sent many things over the years (albeit sporadically). Except this time, the reporter came back with a response saying he really didn't have time to report on my client unless they could get to know him "face to face." (This was before Covid was even a thought). I was taken aback, first, because of his harsh reply, but then I was bewildered he thought the managing partner of a multimillion dollar firm has the time to sit down with him for coffee on a regular basis. News flash, dude, that's what I'm here for. I am your contact and we have a relationship, and you just burned it down. Publicists have a place, and that place is getting their clients' newsworthy stories out there because they're too busy doing their jobs to do so. We are their counsel on something they know nothing about (media relations), not unlike their attorney who'd help them navigate a legal matter. Perhaps if this reporter had gone about his suggestion in a different manner, I'd have reacted differently. Heck, I'd probably have flown to Atlanta to have coffee with him myself at my client's office! And in case you're wondering, I've never sent another thing to this reporter.
A couple years later, I was researching (i.e. stalking) entrepreneurial and business reporters and editors for a start-up client and their story. I'd been reading hundreds of articles, doing countless hours of research and following pretty much everyone on LinkedIn. Which led me to notice a trend - shaming/bullying by notable writers and editors on the social media site AND depressing posts about people doing things wrong. (Again, this was pre-Covid). There are publications which I hold in very high regard, and would LOVE to have my clients featured in, whose writers and top editor were publicly shaming people. Top lines in the post read: "You'll get destroyed" and "I love it when..." Can we not write about something helpful and happy? Must we bash people who have the courage to reach out to you to get their stories heard? Again, what would our industry be without a mutually respectful relationships? How can these relationships be nurtured when these figures of notoriety are shaming people? It must be the digital age where the pressure to post content (good, bag, ugly, negative) is higher than quality uplifting content. Frankly, I've been scared to reach out to some of these individuals for fear of public bashing. Instead I've chosen to spend more hours researching writers who seem to be kind and open to hearing my clients' stories. Taking the high road isn't always the easiest or the fastest, but that's why it's called the high road. *Covid-era edit: Some of these editors seem to have a nicer streak lately, probably because business owners and entrepreneurs are STRUGGLING due to Covid and all the shutdowns. Good for them; hope they keep it up.*
In stark contrast, lately I've also worked with numerous young, millennial reporters from many different publications. (It's possible these reporters only seem young as I'm growing older.) These young people, who often aren't that far out of college, are typically courteous, grateful, professional, respectful, wonderful to work with, and their reporting top notch. I can only hope they are the future of reporting.
In closing, I hope we're not too far gone from the days of mutual admiration between the press and publicists. I continue to present myself and my clients in a friendly, engaging, and ethical manner which is in all of our best interests. If you're a client in need of a publicist, or a writer/editor who shares these ideals or just think I'm an old lady off her rocker, drop me a line. I'd love to hear your thoughts.