The Seven Deadly Sins of PR

Rachel McArthur, Managing Editor of Digital Ink offers her thoughts on the pitfalls that many PRs fall into in the UAE, and how to overcome them…

It’s that age-old battle of Editors vs. PRs, and vice-versa. We’re the Tom & Jerry of media, constantly provoking each other.

PR: you can’t live with it; you can’t live without it. At least that’s what the majority of us journalists say. If you’re a Twitter user – or Facebook friends with media folk – chances are you have come across posts complaining about the state of PR, or journalism – or both. Yup, it’s that age-old battle of Editors vs. PRs, and vice-versa. We’re the Tom & Jerry of media, constantly provoking each other.

In all seriousness, neither is that bad and I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of annoying someone in the past. But when it comes to the most regular PR mistakes, myself – along with some close journo friends – thought we would highlight the most common sins:

1) Calls, Calls, Calls
This is number one on the list for the majority of journalists. Let me set the scene for you – you’re hard at work trying to meet client deadlines, but you keep getting distracted thanks to friends calling you up every 15 minutes about plans for the weekend. If you took every single call, you will have achieved next to nothing by the end of the day.

And that’s what it is like for us. For example, today my phone went off at least twice every hour for things that were not urgent. If you have sent me an email release and it is interesting/relevant, chances are I’ll probably use it. Maybe today, or later on in the month. But please don’t call me to check that I have received it.

Personally, I am also not a fan of phone pitches as I have the memory of a goldfish, and so if it is not on email, I will have forgotten about it by the end of the day. The only time calls are okay is when something is urgent.

2) Know Your Audience
A little research goes a long way in establishing good relationships with Editors. A release that is not relevant to my publication is like junk email – totally useless. If I am a celebrity writer, chances are I won’t be interested in covering the Dubai Business Forum. The opposite also happens – when a PR doesn’t approach the right people. Only last week somebody was telling me about a car launch event where the UAE’s top three motoring Journalists were not invited as the newly-appointed PR agency had no idea who they were. Oops…

3) Not responding to queries
A good PR professional is someone who is happy to talk at all times – not just when they have an event or press release etc. I have lost count of the times I have reached out with a query, only to have my email(s) not even responded to. Granted, a lot of times it is down to the client themselves, but clients need to understand that it’s just like customer service: they can’t just acknowledge good feedback and ignore complaints… people won’t respect your position in the market if you’re weak.

4) Images & WeTransfer
Why do some PRs send out a release without at a single decent image? An image resolution that will work for web might not necessarily work for print, therefore, always prepare high-resolution photos. But even worse than bad images are images sent via WeTransfer, and here’s why:

a) If it’s not a breaking news story, chances are we won’t need the images straightaway (e.g. product images, restaurants etc.), so we’ll label the email and refer to it later. Unfortunately, by the time we get back to it, the WeTransfer link has expired! Why not use Dropbox or Google Drive? Make it easy for the journalist to refer back to your releases and you’ll increase your chances of coverage.

b) WeTransfer takes ages to download, especially when the file is over 500MB in size. Dropbox allows us to browse/choose the images we download, as opposed to downloading a massive file just to use one image.

5) No, I am not a blogger
Yes, there are some massively influential bloggers out there, but there are also quite a few who have bought their way to the top (you know who you are). Don’t mix Journalists with Bloggers… we’ve spent years in this industry, we work hard, and we have crazy deadlines. So when organising interviews, for example, it goes a long way if you prioritise journalists who have to go back to the office asap and file copy. A friend of mine – who works with one of the UAE’s leading radio stations – was made to wait for two hours at a recent celeb event because some bloggers were given interview slots before her. This is despite the fact she had to go on air later on that afternoon, while chances are the bloggers posted their stories later on in the week.

6) Missing important info
Got listings/info for shopping pages? Send me product names, images, prices and stockists, and I will love you forever and ever. You’ve just saved me an email requesting missing info.

7) Being told I will get something for free
And finally… a Journalist will cover a story, because it is interesting and/or it is of interest to their readers, NOT because they will get something in return. Please don’t send me an email inviting me to an event with a note at the bottom saying: “If you attend, you will receive X, Y or Z.” If your event/story is strong enough, you won’t need to bribe people to come. Right?

Now, I know this doesn’t apply to everyone and I’m sure our PR friends have lots to say about Journalists/Editors as well… so I’m looking forward to reading that post! Who’s brave enough?

1 reply
  1. Joseph El-Bcherrawy
    Joseph El-Bcherrawy says:

    OK, I don’t know why I wasted around 4 minutes reading this, but I do have some comments.

    1 – A PR person that doesn’t want to take phone calls unless they are urgent…since when is PR a business based on urgency? Hold on…sorry, forget about which industry we are talking about…since when it is acceptable for a professional not to pick up phone calls from clients, suppliers or any other party if it is related to work? I can understand if a Professional is too busy to pick up his/her friends phone calls. But work related phone calls? aren’t PR people supposed to socialize with clients suppliers or any other party they will have to work with at a certain point of time?

    2 – PR and rumors, lovely! Editors will even go to launch or press events uninvited. so a Friend told you they heard of something makes it an editorial piece on a media related portal?

    3 – Do you see the contradiction between your 1st and 3rd point?

    4 – Downloading from wetransfer and dropbox takes the exact same amount of time, it’s only a matter or the internet connection speed you have at the office.

    5 – Sometime I wonder if published articles on this site are being monitored.

    6 – If the subject is interesting enough, an editor or journalist should never have an issue requesting more details. Just saying. It is part of your job. Right?

    7 – I personally have had several marketing related Jobs. Be it with a publisher, as a client, or within a media agency, I have never seen such a note at an event invite by any of the clients I have dealt with or PR agencies I have dealt with. Now if a PR person felt like it would be nice to mention what’s included in the press bag, I don’t see that as a bribe. as a matter of fact, journalists and editors in Dubai specifically only attend those events for the sake of the gift(s) included in the press bag and I’ve seen them so many times complain about cheap, or not up to the standard kind of gift. I know you being an editor can write about a specific event or product launch using the press release that have just landed in your inbox without attending the event. Do you agree?

    One positive point about this article…it fits the “Look who’s talking” tag perfectly.

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