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?