The Perfect PR…

November 29, 2008

I have a vision, a dream, an idea of perfect newsroom happiness.

I call it ‘The Perfect PR’ and it goes a little something like this. The Perfect PR does the following:

1. Always asks ‘Are you on deadline’ when they ring me. Actually, they only ring on mutual-pre-agreement.

2. Emails great News story, within the magazine’s deadline structure, in an appropriate copy-style with at least one high-resolution jpeg image at 300dpi.

3. Has actually read the magazine and knows the various editorial items and run of mag.

4. Does not make the assumption that the client they represent MUST interest my readership.

5. Is not so far up their own arse that they forget their main purpose is to deliver great copy on behalf of their client as the professional broker between the newsroom and the client. Nothing more.

6. Never, ever, ever, ever rings me to see if I have received a press release.

7. Has the current Forward Features list, and submits timely, appropriate and relevant feature ideas.

8. Always contacts my commissioned freelancers direct, as instructed on the Forward Features list, rather than contact me, demonstrating they have not actually read the Forward Features List in the first place.

9. Does not ever, ever, ever ring me to ask why a press release wasn’t included.

10. Does not invite me to pointless Schmooze events with no inherent News or Feature value: they understand that I receive 250 PR emails per day, and respect that time is very, very precious indeed.

I have the current pleasure of knowing 3 ‘Perfect PRs’ at the moment – which given the above number of PR emails received daily, does not comment positively on the average delivery of PR to UK editors.

Well, not to this one, anyway.


Why do PRs do this – pointless Schmooze events with no inherent News value whatsoever?

Looks like the unwelcome telephone return of Rubella Pymley-Bowles from Ostentatious PR again:

Rubella: HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII we spoke the other day. It’s Rubella from Ostentatious PR.

Editor: Hello again Rubella.

Rubella: Welllllllllllllllllllll, we are having a few nibbles and drinks with our client More Widgets Limited at Ragingly Pretentious, a new post-modernist retro fun venue in Soho tomorrow evening, and I wondered if you would like to attend? It would be soooooo nice to see you there!

Editor: What’s the News angle – what’s the story?

Rubella: OOOH, no boring work things, just a nice social event with us and More Widgets Limited. The Managing Director will be available for an interview with you between 6 and 7pm.

Editor: If there is no News announcement, no Exclusive angle, and nothing other than a free cocktail in a Soho bar, I’ll be giving it a miss. Please keep me up to date with relevant News stories only.

Rubella: Sure, sure, sure. Speak soon and thanks for accepting the invite. I’ll feedback to the client.

Editor: I didn’t accept. I asked for editorial relevance, which you couldn’t give me Rubella. Goodbye. (clicks phone down before more pointless PR drivvel is spouted down the line and wonders how she gets paid)

See the point in hand? They don’t listen!

Nor do many of them even actually read the magazine, follow the industry trends, or – more importantly – push their client to advertise in the publication. Just get the PR in and walk away…aaah, I feel so used!

Here’s an interesting one which surfaced during pre-production week.

The constant battle for page space between editorial and advertising content – and how the two inter-relate, both in the minds of the production team and the paying advertiser. It’s a tricky one.

One the one hand, there is the editorial tone, quality, tone and basic ‘readability’ of a magazine. On the other hand, there are the expectations, requirements and sometimes blatant demands of a paying advertiser.

How to balance the two, so an editorial product of value, attractive readability and, ultimately, profitable delivery of the editorial product can be delivered on time, on budget and also ticking all the above boxes.

Do you struggle with this? Do you find yourself as a media professional wondering if there are better ways of providing and adding value to the editorial you collate and cajole into the magazine flat plan each month?

I know I do! Any, usually, it is the editorial quality which suffers in the hands of a paying advertiser. Concessions are made in the name of adding pounds onto projected monthly targets. Quality editorial content is binned in the 11th hour for additional adverts to go into previously-allocated copy slots.

But, especially during a credit-crunched year, we are made to understand that above all, the editorial product MUST remina profitable at all times. If I learnt nothing else as an editor in Northcliffe Newspaper Group, it was that profit is the paramount driver. Keep the advertisers happy. Everything else is secondary.

And so we push onwards, striving to maintain an editorial portfolio of which we are proud. An editorial portfolio which stands up to the scrutiny of our peers. An editorial portfolio on which the dark-eyed sales teams can generate further sales and keep the money-machine rolling.

Not that I am cynical or an editorial-dreamer – far from it! Without revenues, we have redundancies.

But the issue of balancing the editorial and advertising people remains the biggest challenge to date. If you had to make a choice, between better editorial tone and increased adverts, what would you pick?

Happy trails – feedback from editors and advertisers alike will help this Sunday evening quandry…

PRs read this – carefully!

There are a few simple rules which will endear a PR – and, far more importantly, their clients to an editor. They are, in no paricular order of importance…bearing in mind that they are all important if you want to win editorial brownie points and ensure at least the possibility of a positive working relationship with a target editor for your clients PR Campaigns:

1. Read the bloody magazine before you submit client PR – preferably at least the last 3 months’ issues.

2. Research the names and titles of the editorial team – never, ever, ever any generic ‘Hi’ emails please.

3. Make sure you get hold of a current Forward Features list before you consider picking up the phone.

4. When you submit client News stories, make sure you know the mag deadline schedule – and stick to it.

5. Please do obvious things – if the editor wants images with each press release, then send them.

6. Finally – for now – do NOT ring up and check if any PR had been received. Time is precious.

It seems like a few simple things can so incredibly go amiss once a PR Account Director gets to that time of the calendar month when they have to start collating Monthly Activity reports to justify a hefty retainer to a business client.

If straightforward, effective, relevant and well-timed media relations activities were carried out de rigeur, the above posting would not be necessary. And I might fly to the Moon on my keyboard, right?!

It’s the little moments that make a difference, don’t you find? Nothing to do with editorial, this one…

The special things that make Life a bit special – not the day-to-day grind?

I wanted to share such a moment, which happened tonight:

After hearing that a close friend had come out of a relationship, and was feeling pretty raw, I suggested we went out for a meal, chat, and a bit of emotional support. Nothing special in that.

At the restaurant, we sit, run through menus – a waitress comes over to take orders, saying:

“Has anyone told you about the specials?”

I reply: ‘No, but weren’t they an 80s Ska band?”

Friend roars with laughter. I smile. Mission accomplished – a truly Special moment!

Advice to PR people…

November 14, 2008

First things first!

PR people – when you are in the process of ringing editors to check and see if they received the press release you emailed 12 days ago (how painfully annoying is it when they ring up chirpy, gormless, and completely unaware that their head is firmly stuck up their own arse?!) – ask this simple question FIRST:

“Hi, is this a good time to talk – are you on Deadline?”

Rather than launch into a micro-pitch about the benefits of your Client’s latest widget-thing to the readership of my magazine…you will win SO many more brownie points if you demonstrate a bit of understanding of how a typical Newsroom works.

Typical PR conversation:

PR: “Hi is that the editor?”

Editor: “Yes.”

PR: “GGGRRRRRRRREAT. Hiyaaaaaaaaa, this is Rubella Pymley-Bowles from Ostentatious PR. We are representing the client More Widgets Limited, and I emailed over a press release 12 days ago about their latest widget, which is being launched exclusively in a remote part of the country tomorrow. Was the press release of interest?”

Editor: “I get 250 emails a day from PRs.”

PR: “RIIIIIIIGGGGGGGGGGHT. Busy then? Gosh! (pauses on phone) So…did you read the press release?”

Editor: “And it was sent 12 days ago?”

PR: “Yah. I thought it would make a lovely News story for your readers.”

Editor: “All our News stories for that magazine are picture stories. You didn’t send any images. Have you ever read the magazine?”

PR: “Sure, sure, sure. So, shall I re-send it today with a Client company logo?”

Editor: “Company logos are not appropriate images for a News story, unless the story is a re-brand. Have you read the magazine News section before?”

PR: “Yah. I can re-send the press release right now with a company logo.”

Editor: “I am not sure you are understanding me. You need to send relevant images at 300dpi resolution – no logos thanks.”

PR: “I think there was an image with the original press release – can you check?”

Editor: “Not right now. As I said, I get 250 emails per day. And I am on deadline now.”

PR: ” Sure, sure, sure. I will re-send the press release today with an image and call you to check you have received it then – is that ok?”

Editor: “Which email address do you have for editorial here?”

PR: “I don’t have that information to hand.”

Editor: …confirms email address…

PR: “GREEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAT, I’ll email and call you later then.”

Editor: “It would be more useful if you simply email the information. Again. With an appropriate image. At 300dpi resolution. As I have already mentioned.”

PR: “Sure, sure, sure. My account director asked me to check if you had the client information.”

Editor: “Wonderful. Does the account director read the magazine?”

PR: “Yah.”

Editor: “Excellent. So this conversation, in reality, should never have happened then. Had you been fully and properly briefed. Or even better, if you had read the magazine before randomly picking up the phone.”

PR: “Sure, sure, sure. I’ll re-send the information and call you later in the week.”

Editor: ” Just the email will be fine. I don’t need a follow-up call from you to confirm that I have received your re-emailed information. As I mentioned, I get 250 emails a day from PRs, and would rather not get multiple emails covering the same stories from PRs. Thanks.”

PR: “Ahhhhhhhhhhh, sure, sure, sure.”

Editor: “Thanks Rubella. Goodbye.” (puts down phone before PR continues to waffle and returns to deadline, muttering a select choice of expletives including fuckstick, arse and muppet).

Any PRs who consistently ask an editor if they are on deadline BEFORE a random pitch win my vote.

Here’s a tricky newsroom dilemma…

You’ve received a piece of editorial from a client who is contributing copy for your current magazine. They submit the requested 600 words from your detailed Brief, via email, on deadline day – and it is shite.

Argh! What to do?

If you’re the kind of journalist and editor that likes to sub copy super-fast, work through your multi-tasking editorial tasks and stay on top of forward-planning your next edition well before production week on your current mag (this is how I like to work) then receiving crap client contributed copy can put a real spanner in the editorial works – even for the most talented editor.

And – unfortunately – this wasn’t the first time I had come across off-the-mark copy from this contributor. They had supplied copy three months prior, missing the deadline by 24 hours, and then delivering a full 25 percent under the required word count. Tricky.

At that time, I had dropped the piece and produced alternative copy myself. Not on this occasion.

I contacted the client and informed them I would be utilising images from their website to fill the editorial space and presenting their editorial as a series of bullet points instead. They were not happy, but then again, neither was I!

Bottom line? The editorial page looked awesome. They loved it in the magazine. My mag director planned it in as a regular contributed copy page item from that month on, making each issue an additional £2K. Result!

What would you do with sub-standard client copy in these circumstances?

You won’t believe this…

November 5, 2008

…but it happened today in the newsroom. PRs, pay attention.

Entering another deadline day, and ploughing through endless emails containing various PR copy, images, and spun combinations of both, i had the misfortune to come across a particularly poor press release and jpeg.

Rapidly emailing the PR for a decent jpeg image – within the already-requested boundaries of 300dpi resolution – I received a reply 45 minutes later…asking me not to be so ‘abrupt’ and to be more ‘polite’ in my correspondence.

From a PR Executive, no less. And whilst I am biting my tongue right now, I won’t mention the name of the sign and display franchise firm which is currently employing this champagne-guzzling, sushi-munching, self-affected little PR Princess, because it simply isn’t worth it.

The email I sent back included phrases such as ‘remember your role’, ‘i do not have the time to turn your half-decent News copy and atrocious images into something we can publish, so your Client can pat you on the back’ and ‘you need to consider raising your game’ to spur on some proactive PR activity, rather than mollycuddling a bruised PR’s ego.

Now, I understand that all PRs have to start somewhere, and it is largely about learning as one goes, but for the love of several widely-recognnised Gods – NOT ON MY EDITORIAL SHIFT THANKS!

Funnily enough, said PR Executive has not sent a reply email today. Then again, would I bother reading it.

Anyway, back to editing down another 100-page magazine in 4 days. Oh, whooshing deadlines!

Comments and inputs appreciated…either from fellow Editors or positive PRs who know how to deliver.

Welcome to the musings, observations and rants of a Bristol-based magazine editor: here you’ll find a safe editorial space to contribute to the complex, amusing and sometimes just plain frustrating world of the media – from the inside.

If you’re a media type, aggrieved hack, uneducated PR or quite simply anybody working in the media in the region, this blog could well provide a sounding board – rather than a soapbox – for you to add debate, insights, and to also hopefully add value, on some of the topics which will be discussed here.

It’s going to be interesting, plain-speaking and above all, an honest, dialogue about working in publishing.