Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Adventures in PR

As a reporter, I can't help but avoid people in the field of public relations. I swear, they must be able to smell cameras or reporters' notebooks within a 50-mile radius. They pop out of nowhere once you arrive, and will cling to you throughout the assignment like a bumper sticker.

I can deal with that, because I've had my share of irritating PR people who watch me closely, because they think I'm going to pull a Mike Wallace and completely ruin their public image. But here's what I can't deal with...the hoops a reporter has to jump through to even get past the PR gatekeepers for an interview.

I'm not the only one. Here's what a local reporter told me he was told when he wanted to do a feature story about a local business (which is owned by a publicly-traded company).

To even speak with an employee, I would have to fill out forms saying who I was, what the story was about, who the audience is, and how it would benefit the company. After Media Relations approves it, everything would have to be approved AGAIN by their legal department, which takes more than a week.

And that is why I dislike PR people. From the annoying PR clingers to scary "Don't talk to the media" policies like the one above, I think I'll just bypass the PR department whenever I can.

Does anyone else have similar stories to share?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with your complaint.

I would like to add that I detest any PR person who thinks they know more about the media than the media person.

I also cannot stand the PR person who thinks the reporter has some sort of hidden agenda. Like the story will change once I get there... right! When I say I am doing a story on cold remedies at a hospital, darn it, I am not going to switch gears and talk about patient response time in the Emergency Room.

The worst? The PR person who thinks you are lying right out of the gate. I am here to learn about your new grocery store, not talk about high prices.

Best PR people? At colleges.

Worst PR people? Try doing a story about the flu or some such nonsense at a hospital some time. They only want to see you when they buy a new ambulance.

5:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geisinger must have the worst PR people out there. I interviewed a doctor there a while back when I did a story on food poisoning, and the PR person was standing five feet away, writing stuff down.

I just set up my own interviews now, instead of going through their PR department.

And yes, college PR people are the best. Wilkes' PR staff seems to be the best of them. I've never had a problem with them, and they're actually NICE, instead of watching you like a foreign invader.

5:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Policies are driven by the legal department and the PR people are merely following orders.

I'll disagree on the college PR people. They often have no idea what broadcasters deal with.

5:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geisinger? UGH! Those folks say, "We'll get back to you by the end of the week," and never *ever* call back. What bites is that other hospitals do not offer all that GMC does, so when it comes to certain topics, they are it, unless you want to go out of the area.

8:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It all comes down to what experience the PR person brings to the job. Those who used to work in the media are usually the best.

I remember when I was working in news at WYOU, long before the merger, and we wanted to do a sweeps series on things Made in PA. This series was going to tell the story of some of the products produced in this area that are shipped around the country and of course the impact on jobs. Sounds great, but what a pain. We have to contact over 20 places just to find 5 that would agree to do the story. And this was in the 80's long before any privacy laws.

Then people wonder why you only see fires, accidents and police incidents on the news....you know why, they are easier to cover!!!

10:54 AM  

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