Midday story on PR

Midday story on PR


Hoodwinking reporters?

As months pass by, public relations executives from across the world are coming up with innovative ways to feed their version of ‘finger-licking-news’ to reporters. We have seen those who directly pitch stories, others who demand stories, but the latest way, this new breed of PR ‘professionals’ have employed is certainly shocking. 

First they praise your story for the day, ‘like’ all of your status messages (even when your status message reads ‘blah’) on social networking sites, drop comments like ‘oh so cute’ on all your facebook photos ” and just when you start scratching your head wondering where you know this person from ” they go for the kill. A badly written press release hits your mailbox and your office direct line and mobile phone does not stop ringing ” each time the same question. When you are about to pull your hair off and tell the PR off, you stop and think ” they have achieved what they set out to do, grab your attention for a longer time than you would have given them otherwise. 

Yet another interesting way many PR professionals have taken to is calling your boss, before the press releases reaches you. Not only does this make you look like a reporter who is unavailable to the outside world (because otherwise why would you call the editor-in-chief for a frivolous event?), but also makes your superiors think there could be a possible story in it (again, why otherwise would the PR try to reach the editor of the newspaper for such a small event). 

Love them or hate them, they have built an often-helpful bridge between journalists and the outside world. While sometimes the bridge gets you across with good quotes delivered before the clock screams ‘deadline’, the other times, you wish you had burnt the bridge down.

Last two weeks these new ways of trying to hoodwink reporters have been the hot topic of discussion at the Press Club. A reporter recalled an incident where a PR professional first got involved in the reporter’s personal life, became friends and from then on started expecting newsprint favours in return. Another reporter quickly quipped ‘Oh I give them the same sugary treatment they are known for and yet manage to keep them at an arms distance’. Even before he completed his statement, a photographer stood up from the next table and said ‘If an event has some potential, then it will sell itself.’ I would have applauded his statement, had it been the early 1980s. Are the PR professionals listening?
Vikas Kumar
+91 9811054648


11 comments on “Midday story on PR

  1. Hi Vikas,

    I read it, I think most of us must have read it. Don’t worry, its just a PR effort by writer. Let her gain some PR so that dey can at least justify d salary. In any case dese r only personal views so let’s not boder abt it.

    Harsh Verdhan

  2. Thats one of the best reactions to the (much read & talked about) article so far!

    Smile……cause though pain is inevitable, suffering is optional
    Sagarika B

  3. A rejoinder written by an ex-journalist on the article by Sheetal from Mid-Day. Also a few words from Ramesh Prabhu calling Sheetals’ article a diatribe against PR. I am sure you want to read on…..

    Uncalled-for criticism of the PR community — and my rejoinder

    Posted by Ramesh Prabhu at 7:12 PM

    The recent comments of a Mid Day columnist have riled public relations professionals, and justifiably so.

    Writing in the Mumbai edition of the newspaper earlier this week, Sheetal Sukhija first refers to the “innovative ways” PR execs use “to feed their version of ‘finger-licking-news’ to reporters”. She then goes on to lambast the PR community for “hoodwinking reporters”.

    Agreed, it is rare for journalists and PR professionals to be the best of friends, but these verbal volleys in a leading publication appear to be cheap shots aimed at addressing personal issues. That is why I have posted my response on the Mid Day website, calling this article an unwanted, unwarranted, and unprofessional attack on the PR community.

    Here is my rejoinder in full:

    This is an unwanted, unwarranted, and unprofessional attack on the PR community. Sure, I have met a few unprofessional PR execs in my time as a journalist (almost 25 years with newspapers and media groups in Mumbai, Dubai, and Bangalore). I was never rude to them but I let them know in subtle ways that I wouldn’t give them the time of day.

    I have also met some PR professionals who are nice people, but, sadly, they didn’t seem to understand that journalists and newspapers are not to be used to promote their clients’ agenda.

    Why would I be interested in giving publicity to something that has no news value? When I was working as a journalist — I am now the professor of journalism at a media college in Bangalore — what I wanted from a PR professional was news. And I am glad to say I have been fortunate to interact with quite a few no-nonsense PR execs who were brilliant at their work. Give me the news point, I would say to them, and leave it to me to do the story. They understood. I reciprocated.

    I believe it is important for PR people to remember that journalists are in the best position to decide what is relevant to the story. I also believe that every industry has its share of rogues and incompetents, so we have bad journalists, sloppy journalists, freeloading journalists — but they are a minority.

    Journalists and publicists need each other. So they need to work together. That is why this eternal tussle and, sometimes, nasty feuding between the two communities is sad. And unnecessary. And unproductive.

    Coming to your column, if you had a professional issue with a particular PR exec, it would have been better to take it up with the person concerned. There was no need to (mis)use your newspaper column to vent your grievance and tarnish the reputation of the entire PR community.

    Ramesh Prabhu : Incidentally, I began my career as a journalist with Mid Day in Mumbai in 1981, becoming the News Editor two years later. The super-boss then was Khalid Ansari, the founder of the newspaper. (Ansari later became the managing editor of Dubai’s Khaleej Times, and he offered me the position of features editor at the paper. I joined Khaleej Times in October 1988.) As News Editor of Mid Day, I would have spiked Sheetal Sukhija’s diatribe against PR professionals. We had different (higher?) standards then.

    Warm Regards,
    Ritika Kar
    Mob – +91 97113 06380

  4. Hi there,

    They say, every coin has 2 sides – so also for stories.
    whether it is related to PR or byany other facet of communication.

    How many PROs has the courage to tell the BOSS that a particular item he wants to be publshed has ‘no news’ value ?

    I am quoting an incident thast happened in early 70s when TOI had an eveninger entitled ‘Evening News of India, and Behram Contractor was one of the reporters. One Mr.Kittu was editor.

    One day my boss (DGM), while I was PRO of Union Bank, called me and handed a news item of Bank’s CMD Raghu Raj’s death of his father. He wanted the news to appear on front page. I politely told him that it has no news value and they may not carry

    He insisted and told me in case the response is negative, I should inform him. Irushed to TOI – my first visit , contacted – Kittu, who was very pre-occupied with the final proof, as it was almost 11.45 am. I handed over to him the press release, which just glanced and his body language indicated it is rejected.

    I reshed back and reported to my boss or the poor response. He told me, do not worry. It will appear on front page.

    In was back in my seat wondering how it can happen. In 15 minutes, I received a phone call from Kittu, talking to me very politely and requesting me to provide him with another copy of my press release, as he has misplaced mine. He ven said, take a cab, I will reimburse . I just could beleive.

    when I reached Kittu’s office, he was eagerly waiting for me. He just tokk the copy of press release, made some editing and handed it over to the peon thundering that it should appear on front page.

    Then he turned to me and insisted on my having coffee and some snacks. I politely refused indicating that it is lunch time soon. Then he suggested that why not have lunch to-gether. This also I declined, but requested him to introduce me to Behram Contractor, who was pounding on a typewriter nearby.

    Kittu just shouted at Behram to come over and the introduction was a very brief affair. I I did cultivate this intro. and Behram, became such a good friend, even called me , when I was abroad.. though I had then retired from the bank.

    Now comming back – how this happend ? Any guess ?


  5. Hey relaaaaax , I think journos n pr both r simply justifying their jobs. Pr by pitching media n exchanging info n journos by writing wat dey think has convinced them to write.

    cheers. Barkha

  6. I cant help but disagree with all my dear PR colleagues and am sorry I have a different opinion!

    I’ve had few colleagues in my career who get totally involved with personal lives of journalists, help them with their domestic issues, have them home for child’s namkaran, baby shower, inviting them to office so they can go home together, etc etc…And I do confess that Iam a very friendly person myself and have a tendency to be very friendly but yet am able to strictly draw a line between personal and professional relations.Iam not at all surprised with the reaction of the Journalist and I do not find anything offensive about it.I even know of PR colleagues who take Journos out for drinks and dinner.Ive never ever done it in my 17yrs in PR coz I believe that a good story sells and that’s all that works.But if others do it, its their style and it works for them.Just like some Journalists love gifts, there are others who refuse to even have a soft drink at your press conference.

    If the Journalist said that ‘Oh I give them the same sugary treatment they are known for and yet manage to keep them at an arms distance’ that is the best strategy! So lets not make a mountain of a mole head and take offence when there are all types of PR professionals in our business.So keep up the good work and do what suits you best mutually.


  7. Hi,

    When I read this piece I got excited to post it on the forum but on a second thought decided not to. I wanted the article to die an unknown death without giving the author her ‘due recognition’!!! But my fellow friends in the community posted it. Nevertheless e vthe two different opinions from Mr. Surkund and Mr. Prabhu bring out the reality of the situation and that is – No side of the camp is clean but both PR and Media ought to stay together, a complement to each other so better we live in harmony and create a symphony around us and not ‘bi***ing about us.

    thnx, rj

  8. Hi Folks,

    No offense to the comments on the story. But, as a professional we should respect what others do rather than hitting directly on it in a negative way. It’s not the case of this pretty lady to write such an idiotic story and the great editor who allowed such crap to publish. The problem is the understanding of the industry. There are many journalists who behave unethically. What do we do then? Should we write such negative articles and post it on a blog? No we will not do that just because of few people even we respect Journalism for those who are not like others.

    It can be a problem in any sector. May be a civil engineer may talk negative about a mechanical engineer.

    Also, it’s not about doing PR for that particular journalist but to change their perception. If she gets to read the online comments on her own story or this thread mail she should know where does she stands today.

    Vikas Kumar

  9. I and probably most of my PR friends agree with you on every aspect u’ve spoken about.

    But one must not forget to check the tone in which the issue is raised / discussed. I think most of us took offense to the hard hitting words used in the article. Her views could’ve been communicated in a far more subtle manner, as this was not the first write up with difference of opinion about a particular stream of profession.


  10. The story and the various comments pouring in from all of us PR
    professionals seems to corroborate my belief. Google uses “democracy
    of search”. The most wanted piece of information comes up on top.
    Likewise, media output is a compilation of ” popularity of newsworthy
    incidents and ideas”.

    This journalist has expressed ideas that have probably been
    circulating in journalistic circles for really long.

    However the PR profession is evolving faster than we can possibly
    comprehend; and Pr agencies are offering research and theories to
    explain why the subject matter they propose is interesting. So in the
    democracy of ideas; PR professionals who add value will get not only
    respect but eventual recognition.

    We are somewhere in the middle of an evolutionary curve.

    Forums like ours could potentially guide the transition.

    reeta d gupta

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