Reacting to PR-bashing journalists
There are, unfortunately, many journalists who dismiss PRs. The worst feel the need to write grumpy, condescending Twitter posts, bemoaning “PRs” who do certain things as though you lot are a) all the same and b) a lesser species. Others simply ignore you at events or are rude during press trips. ”I never meet with PRs,” one old-school editor once told me. “Except when you want a free holiday to the Maldives,” I coughed.
First thing to say: I absolutely don’t get it. Yes, there have been some PRs who have annoyed me or done their job imperfectly. But, so have there been many journalists or editors who have annoyed me or done their job imperfectly; indeed, newsflash, I can be annoying and do my job imperfectly. The bulk of travel PRs, meanwhile, are good to great people who, crucially, aid parts of my job. And we’re all equals, with neither tribe superior to the other.
Anyway, what I want to consider is what to do when encountering a difficult journalist.
In most cases, the only option is to rise above – be the bigger person. In the example of those journalists who PR-bash on Twitter, you could engage in a mature way and defend the industry or gently point out how unhelpful such posts are. But doing so risks only stoking the fire. Better to try for a private, calmer-headed meeting some weeks later, in the hopes of inspiring a change of perspective. Or just to let it go.
Really unprofessional journalists can be blacklisted, of course, or managed with extreme care and, on press trips, paired only with client employees who won’t be walked all over.
Should there be a journalist you want to befriend who seems staunchly anti-PR, do you know any of their colleagues or close allies (perhaps people you’ve seen them gossiping with at an event)? If so, you could meet with the colleague or ally and ask them, very casually, how they recommend you might go about ingratiating yourself with that original journalist? Perhaps they really like wine, or spas, or pints in a classic pub.
A final, longer-term solution here is education: helping us writers understand how the PR industry works, what pressures (pesky clients) you face, the most irksome media behaviours, and how we can all collaborate more efficiently. Accordingly, the February focus of Lottie Gross and Steph Dyson’s newsletter Talking Travel Writing will be along those lines, beginning tomorrow. It’s intended for journalists, yet ought to be well worth a read by PRs this month.
What Richard Thinks…