Survive Your Newsroom

Survive Your Newsroom: PR People

When IT have replaced your phone for the third time in as many weeks, it’s time to admit you have finally met your nemesis.

The calls always start the same way, end the same way and leave you feeling the same way.

‘Hi, did you get that press release I sent…’

Welcome to your new best friend: the PR.

In some twisted addition to the Natural Laws of the Universe, and kept secret by Newton and his brainy mates, there is a variation of Murphy’s Law.

‘If a PR can call you at the most inconvenient point in your day, they will.’

Hello, IT? My phone appears to have broken.

Hello, IT? My phone appears to have broken.

Whether this, this behaviour is taught or a natural talent (and either is disturbing) is not clear but when you get that call you can bet your last dime that it is a) just when a plane has slammed into a mountain or b) when the only survivor of that crash trying to ring you on your personal line with their last credit on their pay-as-you go phone.

Around this time is when IT will be asked to replace your broken phone.

It’s a battle as old as time itself and it isn’t going to resolve itself soon. In fact, it is only going to get worse thanks to the grey area known as Content Marketing which hacks will smell out immediately: yes, PR people re-branding themselves.

In essence PR is very simple: to convince publications to carry good news about your client or your client’s product.Inbox. Mail box. Trash Can. Press Reselase Workflow.

In reality, this consists of people called Tamsin sending Press Releases irrelevant to your publication, print or otherwise, and then badgering you to see if you received it.

If by some misfortune, it IS interesting, you can guarantee that it will become interesting AFTER evening conference and when the cleaners have thrown out the recycled waste. If your inner Asperger’s has stored the PR’s number, expect it to be off – despite the press release marked urgent (nope)not to be missed (miss it) or exclusive (everyone has it)

If you require pictures expect them to be low-res if you work in print and massive 56MB pictures if you work for a mobile website.

If you require additional information for the subject and they ask: What’s the deadline on this? Just say unicorn.

Because it really doesn’t matter a SINGLE IOTA what YOUR deadline is because they have NO conception of what the word means – in any medium.

If you’ve exceeded your quote for phones from IT and your news editor is asking questions of their own about the pile of plastic handset shells around your desk, you may have to come to an accommodation with your foe.

And so know thy enemy. Here’s our handy guide to the species:

The Press Officer

Old school, helpful and good for briefing. THey know their onions and can act solo so long as they’ve been given a line by their boss. Usually civil service and government. OFten cvil servants and so not beholden to politics. Dying breed.

The Government Press Officer


Old school:: Sir Bernard Ingham, the friend and foe of the Press during the Thatcher government.

Similar to above and often dragged out of bed to knock down mad fliers. Sensible folk and worth cultivating. Your reputation relies on them (and they know it) A bit like elephants when it comes to memory – and a bit like elephants when angry.

Public Relations Officer

From plugging garden fetes to corporate reputation management in the face of a nuclear meltdown these characters range from the kindly village souls to people wearing suits more expensive than your car. Tolerate the former, make the latter earn their fees and show no mercy.

The Call Centre Robot

‘Hi, It’s Tamsin here. How are you today?’
Do not engage. You will actually hear brain cells in our cortex killing themselves. Pass the call over to your sourest reporter.

The useful PR

Once in a while, nature throws up the right people in the wrong job. If you find a helpful PR, with their phone on, who includes all the information you need, is respectful of deadlines and delivers – lunch them, lunch them now.

The ex-hack

Don’t be fooled. Their use of industry language may seem soothing and familiar and on surface value they appear to be useful. Not so. They bailed out for the dollars and are corporate schills just like the rest of them. Most likely to go behind your back elsewhere in the newsroom.

The Content Marketeer

Spawned by the internet, this breed lives on listicles and virals. Nothing to see here – unless you need a funny video or a listicle, that is.

Remember, every product placed ‘story’ you buy into and run is a lost ad.

And we know where that leads.


Categories: Survive Your Newsroom

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