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.


13 Responses to “Advice to PR people…”

  1. Max Clifford said

    How about the editor having the balls to say ‘Sorry I’m on deadline at the moment’ at the beginning of the conversation?

    Or indeed at any of four or five points during the conversation above?

    Wouldn’t that be just as helpful and make the world a better place?


  2. Michele H said

    Thank goodness I know what I am doing then! Probably because I was a journalist for 10 years before moving into PR. But try telling that to some account directors who insist you keep ringing to ‘push’ a release. Have they never heard of, or do they not understand, the crucial importance of good media relations and knowing your media inside out?
    For all those Rubella Fuckwit-Simpletons out there who give good PRs a bad name I curse you! And to all those long suffering journos/eds on the receiving end of such calls (been there, got the t-shirt and used to think daily that I am NOT your new best friend stupid PR bimbo!) apologies on behalf of the few of us who know what we are doing for the majority who make your life hell and give us all a bad name!

  3. bristoleditor said

    First things first…

    Thanks for your comments.

    Max – an effective PR will ask an editor if they are on deadline before they launch their pitch. Or, at least, they should.

    Don’t forget, the press are often dealing with what is tantamount to an editorial salesman polishing a turd for media consumption. At times.

    Michele – as you’ve identified, and indeed as with all business relationships. First impressions count, and my first impression of ‘Rubella’ was not a positive one.

  4. Andy Turner said

    Dear Bristol Editor, two thoughts on this:

    1. Stop picking up the phone and accept that email if your best filter against junk pitches from PR people. That’s what many FT journlists now do in order to get their job done.

    2. Go out and meet the PR firms who are the worst culprits. Ask them to invite their clients too (often they are the ones insisting on follow-up calls, mistakenly believing pester power works). Tell them why it’s inappropriate and ineffective. Eventually the message will get around. You will get a good lunch and a drink, and, hey, maybe even a few great stories.

    PR people and journalists need each other more than ever. Ranting might give temporary satisfaction, but the phone will still ring.

  5. bristoleditor said

    Hi Andy

    Excellent and positive inputs – cheers.

    1. I have pushed as many of the PRs as possible to the email route, although you still of course get the ubiquitous ‘did you get the press release we sent’ phone call on a daily basis – ongoing education is a bore when these guys should know better – or, shock, horror – if the account directors actually invested time to properly train their account executives in the first damn place! Welcome to the Muppet Show.

    2. Meeting PRs? Wish I had the time to get out of the newsroom here…the idea of a PR lunch actually starts to look attractive in the way you’ve presented it! Things are a little more time-constrained in this magazine newsroom though – unfortunately. I appreciate it is about education, but do we as deadline-driven editors really need to give free editorial consultancy and media training to PRs who don’t have the basics in place? I wonder…

    I totally agree with your final point – YES, of course the press & PRs need each other, in these times of editorial cutbacks – but not at any price.

    There are some great PRs out there – in my experience, however, there are many, many, many more poor PRs over-charging clients, not conducting effective, timely or professional media relations, submitting sub-standard copy and crap images, not observing deadlines of key media for their clients, and certainly not observing the Code of Conduct from the CIPR…

    Ho hum…my first editor never warned me about this! Best crack on, got a mag to put to bed.

  6. Sarah said


    I completely empathise.

    I’m an independent pr consultant.

    I go to many pr offices where the media manager insists the press team does a ‘ring round’. It’s frustrating for the people doing the calling – they know journalists hate it, yet their managers insist they do it.

    The first rule of pr I learnt nearly ten years ago was to never call and ask ‘did you get my release and will you be covering it?’. Unfortunately there are still some pr people who don’t know their arse from their elbow. Their salaries are no measure of their common sense.

  7. bristoleditor said

    Hi Sarah

    Thanks for these comments…

    “Their salaries are no measure of their common sense.”

    Amen to that sister!

    I am posting about ‘The Perfect PR’ in response to your excellent post, and thanks again for the inputs.


    Bristol Editor

  8. […] never been greater. The likes of Rubella Pymley-Bowles from Ostentatious PR will always receive a frosty welcome from any time-pressured […]

  9. […] of the magazines. And, as if by magic, within three minutes of that thought, a PR relative of the infamous Rubella Pymley-Bowles from Ostentatious PR was on the phone. And she truly surpassed […]

  10. […] remains a pretty O.T.T. way of expressing distain at online editorial. I had better be nicer to Rubella from Ostentatious PR for a while. Ahem. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Newspaper […]

  11. danslee said

    Well said Michele H. Round of applause from this former journalist turned press officer.

  12. Nige H said

    Bristol Editor’s comments are spot on. As a rule, no-one who hasn’t done a decent stint as a hard news reporter should be writing releases for a PR company.

    But having worked for 14 years in newspapers and 12 in PR (both public and private sector), there is more to this.

    Perhaps some newspapers are a little to blame? Once upon a time good news stories appeared a day or two after they were unearthed and news organisations took their own photos. Infact, they got offended if you suggested they could use someone else’s photos.

    Now you can wait for a week or more for a regional daily to publish a story – even a really good one.

    The pressure is then on PR’s from clients who fear their story isn’t going to get published.

    • bristoleditor said

      Hi Nige

      Many thanks for your inputs – much appreciated.

      I guess it’s the characterisation of Rubella which highlights that although there is some good PR out there, delivered by talented and informed ex-Hacks on behalf of demanding clients, there is still a huge amount of poorly-researched, conceived and executed press relations pushed to editors on a daily basis. We’ve all suffered it.

      The one saving grace for PRs, perhaps, is that for the time being offline media still rely on PR inputs to fill the pages on restricted editorial budgets. The picture for online content distribution, however, is somewhat different, where we see the role and impact of PR diminishing. The death of PR as we know it may well, I believe, come from the web first.

      Thanks again.

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