PR is like customer service — it’s in your interest to do it right

by
PR column

It’s a ritual I witness at least once every week as I go about lining up guests for the various radio programs that I produce, including “Business Unconventional,” “Monday Morning Radio” and “Radio Chavura.”

A company or organization issues a national news release, hoping to draw attention to itself.  The release may be designed primarily to bolster the SEO results attained by the issuer, although I assume that most companies that pay to distribute news releases are still hoping to get free media coverage from mainstream news outlets.

That’s what I offer.  Free media coverage in a quality broadcast news program with a dedicated and growing audience.

I never went to PR school, but I’d think that those who bother to issue such releases would be thrilled to hear from a mainstream journalist pursuing a real, positive article – or in my case, a broadcast interview.

Think again.

Although I don’t keep formal statistics on the results of my outbound calls, I would guess that roughly 50 percent of the time when a release does catch my attention, the “contact” person listed on the paid news release is not available when I call.  That is particularly vexing, since I typically phone on the same day, and often within minutes, of when the news release crosses the public relations newswire.

Perhaps some of these folks can explain their absence (if I could ever actually reach them) and the reasoning for being so generally lackadaisical. If you’re going to issue a national news release on a given day, why not actually be at your desk to respond to media inquiries – if you’re lucky enough to receive some?

I would recommend eating at your desk on any day you also issue a news release and rescheduling outside meetings for a different day.  When the phone rings – if the phone rings – answer it, for gosh sakes!

I call (opportunity) – but when no one live answers or promptly returns my message, I knock on the next door.

I do, in fact, regularly leave voice messages explaining that I’m calling in response to “your” news release and would be grateful if someone would get back to me.

Many never do.

Perhaps equally irritating – and irrational from my perspective – are those people who I do reach and seem anything but eager to hear from me.

Let me get this straight.  Your company pays good, hard-earned money to try and bait a mainstream journalist to bite on your story.  I come along and do just that.

Shouldn’t you be a least a tad warm, grateful and accommodating?

Some PR folks are.  But many treat my call as an annoyance – often grilling me about the nature of my news programs and then asking me to put what I’ve just said in writing and email it to them.

What?

You knocked at my door. Then, when I answer and invite you in, you want to turn the tables on me and have me sell myself to you?

I probably sound whinny.  Which is a shame because that isn’t my intent.  I never mind explaining who I am and what I do – especially to a friendly company representative who doesn’t know me or my radio stations (I produce for more than one outlet.)

But really, I’m like most journalists, I simply don’t have time to put everything “in writing” – especially after I’ve just explained it in detail by phone.

Typically, I simply move on.  I know – and this is the ace up my sleeve – that there are far more companies who would be delighted to receive the kind of free, third-party, credible exposure that I provide than there are news organizations and journalists breaking down the door of those companies and individuals who resort to news releases to promote themselves.

So here’s my advice.  The next time you issue a release, stick around to answer the phone – should it actually ring.  And be nice.  It’s okay to ask questions, but nix the suspicious tone.  And please, please, try to remember.  You’re the seller.  We are the customers.  Treat your customers exceptionally well and we’ll be loyal.

Treat us poorly and there are plenty of other venues where we journalists can browse for our news and features.