When PR works, it’s fabulous

Journalists like me spend a lot of time moaning about PR people when we feel they’ve done something wrong. So I thought I’d tell you about something that went spectacularly right only this week.

One of the jobs I do is to edit Professional Outsourcing Magazine. It’s peopled by lively contributors from the academic, business analyst and consultancy worlds and is generally a lot of fun to do – until someone lets me down for an article.

So for whatever reason, on Monday I was left without a piece to fill five pages near the front of the magazine, which has to go to press this week.

I put out a plea on Response Source. This is a service that allows journalists to send blanket emails to PR people (who pay for the service) when we need help. The problem with this sort of service has been, historically, that a lot of the PR community – so the stories go – get a whiff of coverage for their client and pitch anything, no matter how irrelevant. I’ve seen journalists say so in tutoring sessions and if I’m honest I find the attitude patronising, for a good reason.

The quality of the answers I had was universally superb. So, what went right?

  • First, the number was low. This didn’t mean people didn’t want to help. This meant people had read the request and didn’t respond if they were irrelevant. If you’re among those who saw the request and excluded yourself from responding because it would have been unhelpful, thank you. (I’ll grant you I tend to get more irrelevant responses when I’m writing for the Guardian or New Statesman – the higher profile publications tend to push your head further over the parapet).
  • Second, people told me why they were replying. Two people conceded they had nothing to say about outsourcing but they understood I’d been let down and was faced by an empty page so something vaguely on the right theme would be better than nothing. Sometimes you get responses that are really left of field or plain irrelevant; there was none of that on this occasion.
  • Third, someone read the brief and realised that other than the length they had something ideal. They were apologetic about the length but offered extra pictures instead. That particular example is in, no question, and OneChocolate Communications can have all the brownie points they want for reading and understanding – as can Ketchum, whose article I’ll probably use in another issue, and Friday’s Media Group and Say Communications. Plus everybody who read the initial plea for help and held off communicating because they couldn’t help.

The PR community often gets a rough ride from journalists, who can be a stroppy lot. On days like today I quite seriously wonder where I’d be without them.

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