Desperate dillweeds: this is what we are, says the Washington Post!

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With increasing frequency we are rapped by the media. Many times this is justified, and this what hurts the most. A few weeks ago this is what Gene Weingarten wrote about us in the Washington Postpr-must-face-critics.doc

what is there more to say?
A very good reporter friend tells me:
There are a lot of qualified PR pros but we in the press run into a lot of amateurs. Also, lots of PR people lately have gotten to taking themselves too seriously. They’re pompous, officious, bossy, unyielding, unavailable, not funny any more, not entertaining, no fun to be with, and don’t even have expense accounts any more.
They’re asking for attacks like that of Weingarten, if you ask me. The first rule of salespeople is that you have to be like the people you are trying to sell. You can’t look down on them or patronize them. PR people in general have lost the touch in how to deal with press because they don’t spend enough time with reporters?

What’s your opinion, may I ask? What can and should we do to reduce the impact and number of these constant bashings?

6 COMMENTS

  1. If a journalist or editor is showing bias, you can certainly pick up the phone to talk it out and/or arrange a meeting (I wouldn’t use e-mail). The reputable media outlets do strive to have objective and balanced reporting, so if you are able to call someone out on a bias (or truly faulty reporting), generally some form of amends will be made by the editor.

    Nothing beats establishing a personal relationship, based on mutual respect and liking. And wherever possible, it’s best to meet in person to discuss ongoing issues and try to resolve them.

    Later this month I’m expecting to meet up with an industry journalist with whom I’ve been dealing for several years, 100 per cent by e-mail (a Canadian who has been living in Mexico). We’re both looking forward to this face-to-face meeting. But, then again, our relations have always been amicable.

    On a side note, one of the things that resonated with me at a CPRS Toronto session earlier this year was a comment made by the food editor from one of the daily papers, who was talking about inappropriate pitches and news releases from PRs. Her comment was simply, “Stop treating the media like its your house organ.”

  2. Certainly, Mr. Weingarten’s philippic generated quite a buzz in the PR community. But, having read his tirade, I must concede – the guy has a point.

    I tend to believe that the root of all evil lies in this statement of Mr. McGrath: “…they are just doing what their bosses want, whether these bosses are CEOs, VPs of marketing or in research and development.” The typical mindset of a PR person works like this: “If we don’t get coverage, we can blame it on a million reasons. Everyone knows, there are no guarantees in the media relations world. However, if I disagree with the Boss on the wording, it can affect my own bottom line.”

    Hence, the jargon-ridden “news releases” that read like advanced engineering manuals. Who cares about the journalist when the Boss is happy!

    I’m sure that for every PR horror story, there is a story about blatant journalists’ mistakes, incompetence and stupidity. I know I have my share of those. But, first of all, the disgruntled journalist has a public forum – he is entitled to broadcast his views directly. We can only swap stories over beer or on industry websites. And, secondly, precious few PR practitioners would venture bashing a journalist for fear of a later public retaliation – at the client’s cost.

    However, we PR people need to learn to accept responsibility and to learn to remind our clients that we are paid for our expertise, for knowing what works and how to create a win-win situation for the journalist and for the client.

    I’m sure that Mr. Weingarten’s story slapped awake many a jargon-addict out there. Hopefully, they will now think again before pushing the Send button on another press release reading as if the Thesaurus was used on every single word. So, in a way, let’s thank Mr. Weingarten for providing a service to the PR industry. Not to mention quite a few additions to my English lexicon (accretion of goods, anyone?)

  3. I fear that the message is not getting to those who are so skilled in the poor practices.

    I’ve held many a meeting over the past years with journalists making these same points to PR practitioners about how they could work better with them. Yet nothing seems to change.

    I wonder if those who need to get the lesson don’t attend courses, read about their profession or think there’s anything they can learn.

    It isn’t necessarily the CEO/client who is at fault – they haven’t been counselled by good PR practitioners. You can always tell a CEO who has worked with those who get it right.

    Maybe we need rehab for the rotten PR practitioners.

  4. One thing is for sure and I notice this time after time in everyday practice of even the best of us.
    While we pay lip service and devote a lot of talk (much more than walk, of course) to developing direct interpersonal face to face relationships with opinion leaders, stakeholders and what have you…we consider journalists as ‘old hat’ and good enough to deserve a light pressure on the ‘send’ button of our portable. This is ironic, when not grotesque: because we know damn well that negative artciles can hurt real bad….
    What is even worse is that in many pr depts. media relations are left with young trainees who know absolutely zilt about the issue they are arguing and there is no way for a journalist to make any sense out of any question he/she might be kind enough to ask.
    And we dare complain because they call us dillweeds?
    How about reviewing our media relations practice and aligning it with investor, employee, supplier and customer relationships? If you move a couple of posts down this blog you will find Anne Gregory’s, Yarina and Judy and Ira’s opinions on the issue with a proposal I put in last night. let me know what you think…

  5. The contributors to PR Conversations have now set up a private working group on Melcrum’s The Communicators’ Network

    http://www.communicatorsnetwork.com

    In this offline space that is friendly to a multitude of international timelines, we can make policy decisions, advise about impending vacations or conferences, plus have general offline discussions and ask questions.

    Today Cathy Arrow asked whether we’d found a definition of dillweed for Brian. I offered up the URL to the Urban Dictionary, which I’ll also share here:

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=dillweed

    (Note that you, too, can vote on which definition is the most accurate, particularly in relation to the use of “dillweed” in the article and Toni’s post.)

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