Why Journalists Hate PRs Part 2

RantsSep 22 20064 Comments

Well, because it’s Friday, and because I obviously didn’t learn my lesson the first time I wrote about this, here’s another prime example of Things PRs Do That Annoy Me, hot off the press this morning.

(DISCLAIMER: Not all PRs annoy me. Not all PRs do Bad Things. In fact, most of them are lovely! I heart them! On with the show…)

The example: an email from a PR, complaining about the fact that although his company advertised in a recent supplement I wrote some copy for, they were not mentioned in the editorial. “We advertise heavily in [name of publication]” he wrote, “and would therefore expect to get a mention.”

Oh really? And why is that, then? Surely this PR is not suggesting that his company would like to buy their way into an article? I mean, I’m sure that’s not what he’s trying to say, because, after all, PRs never do things like that, and if they do, well hey, journalists are just as bad, so there’s no point in me complaining about it, is there?

I think there is, actually. Last week I was criticised by a PR for apparently “relying on press releases too much”. This week I’m criticised by a PR for not relying on them enough, and for – shock horror – neglecting to give preferential treatment to advertisers. I really can’t win, can I?  For the record, the advertising team at the publication in question don’t tell me who has taken out adverts. This is because I don’t need to know. It’s not relevant. If a company has done something newsworthy, then they can expect to get some coverage. Buying advertising space is not newsworthy, and if a journalist has any integrity at all, it’s not going to sway their decision on whether or not to include you.  If you buy advertising you’ll get an advert. That’s it. You don’t have the right to complain about not also getting editorial because as long as your advert appeared, you got what you paid for.

Thankfully, the vast majority of PRs out there are well aware that “advertising” and “news” are two completely different things – or should be. It’s the ones who don’t who make my job difficult, and I have to say that, of all of the things PRs have done to irritate me recently, I think this one wins the prize.

To put it in perspective: lots of companies advertise in this particular supplement, and only one PR complained that their advert didn’t guarantee them editorial. So this kind of behaviour is hardly what you could call “the norm”. The problem is, though, that there’s always one, isn’t there? Every single time I’ve written for something like this, there’ll be at least one PR who’ll have a hissyfit because they thought buying an advert automatically guaranteed them preferential treatment. Where do they get this idea from? Is it the advertising team, promising them the world just to get their hands on the cold, hard cash? Is it the fact that some publications do allow advertisers to monopolize editorial? Is it the PR industry itself? Answers on a press release postcard…