When a publicist and a reporter talk shop: 2016 edition

According to Reporter Guy, these are the questions PR Guy should answer in press releases.

According to Reporter Guy, these are the questions Publicist Guy should answer in press releases.

By Mark G. Auerbach

I’m apart-time public relations professional and a part-time reporter. Both of these guys live inside my head. Last summer, I took them out for a coffee and asked them to talk shop. They did, providing me with a column on all sorts of public relations and media relations issues from both sides of the coin. All it cost me was a couple of cups of coffee.

So, I thought, why not hang out with them again, and see what new insights they might have since our last coffee klatch a year ago.

Publicist Guy: I know we discussed this before, but what kind of publicist/reporter relationship works best?

Reporter Guy: I mentioned this last year, and it really bears repeating. One based on integrity, ethics, consideration and respect. I still steam when a publicist promises a photo or quote for a deadline, and doesn’t respond, or sends the materials several days later with a “I hope this isn’t too late” message. I am disappointed that publicists send press releases, season announcements, etc. hours after they’ve posted it on their websites and on Facebook, and wonder why I won’t take their “news” seriously. It’s already public.

A local arts organization that I cover with an incredible product and a poor marketing plan and execution told me they wanted to announce their new season on a specific date, and they promised to meet my deadline with a press release and photos. The date came and went, but I found the story on their website and Facebook. I had to scramble to fill space. I won’t be covering them much again.

Publicist Guy: I agree with you about the relationship. Let’s add common courtesy. I planned a media day for a client. I set up a program to introduce the media to the client, and included a short presentation, tour and lunch. I carefully built a list, and personally invited about 60 people. I didn’t expect a big turnout, but I got 20 RSVPs (yay and nay); and nothing from the other 40. It seems that the concept of RSVP doesn’t mean anything to people. I had to order lunches, swag, and other things. If they couldn’t attend, they could have said they couldn’t attend.

Reporter Guy: I wish some publicists could refine what they send. I want a simple release with the essentials: who, what, when, where, why. I want a couple of high contrast photos, JPEG format, with captions and credits. And it helps if I have the materials three weeks to a month out. Oh, drop the overused adjectives, because it makes a lot of work for me when I have to delete words like state-of-the-art, cutting-edge, stunning, spectacular, and, well, you know the others. And make sure the links work, and the phone number is correct. We don’t have a lot of copy editors anymore, and I don’t always have the time to check all your details.

Publicist Guy. What’s the best way to send information to a reporter?

Reporter Guy: That depends on the reporter. Ask them. I’m kind of an old-fashioned guy. I like email, because it’s easier to copy and paste a release from email copy or a PDF. If you’ve got your release posted in a media section of your website, and you send me a link, that works. I don’t mind a Facebook message, but don’t post it on my wall. My wall is for my personal interactions with my friends, and not a sales and marketing venue. I sometimes respond to Twitter messages. To be honest, I seldom check LinkedIn or Google+.

I still answer my phone, but more than likely will have my voice mail turned on. I respond to clear, succinct messages. “I got some news to share with you” doesn’t always get a response (why else would they call?) but “I’ve got casting information on the show” will capture my attention.

Publicist Guy: I’ve learned to worry about how my clients respond to the media. We introduced a reporter to a client, and the reporter came for a tour. The client made a couple of comments that bordered on inappropriate for the situation. In retrospect, I should have coached the client in advance, but had been led to believe that they were media savvy. The reporter used direct quotes. The client was angry, and that got back to the reporter, who was just quoting the client. I had to side with the reporter, whom I reached out to. If you’re misquoted, say something. If you’re quoted and you don’t like what you said, keep quiet.

Reporter Guy (laughs): I wrote a review once and misspelled someone’s name. It happens. The guy posted a swear-laden diatribe on my Facebook wall (yes, he spelled the F-Bomb and its many variations correctly). I fixed the error, took down his post, and wrote him a note apologizing for the error, and let him know it had been fixed. He responded that I should know better. I do. I forwarded the “correspondence” to his boss, who was appalled. Needless to say, this “talent” wasn’t on the roster subsequently.

Publicist Guy. I try to be the nice guy. When I see an article written about a client, I thank the reporter. If I repost it to the client’s social media, I thank the reporter by name. I remember that we’re a team, and my reporters deserve to know how much I appreciate them.

Reporter Guy: Wen I first saw a quote from my review in a theatre’s ad, it was an incredible feeling of accomplishment. I thought, “They respect my work enough to quote it.” I’m quick to thank them, repost to social media with a thank you. And when publicists thank me for mentions in articles, I’m equally touched.

Publicist Guy: The workplace has become a 24/07 affair. The emails come in day and night; the texts land whenever my phone is on, and the feed on social media sites never stops. We land on that treadmill too often. I like the occasional face-time with someone, where I can turn off the phone and just chat. When GMail when down one afternoon, I used the hour outage time to go for a walk in the woods. It’s too easy to burn out nowadays.

Reporter Guy. Tell me! I took four days off over the Fourth of July. I didn’t have any shows to review, and I could do my weekly column in advance. I had an away message on my phone, email, and I let folks know in advance I was in “out of sight, out of mind” mode. I also turned off the news feed, radio, and TV. I came back to work recharged, and people were surprisingly respectful of my absence. I’ve got to do this more often.

Publicist Guy: Funny, I did that too. Were you the guy at the pool with the extra large iced coffee? The one who talked about show tunes and White Shoe Season?

Reporter Guy: Yep, that was me. We ought to do some more pool time together. Sounds like a plan.

I picked up the tab for the coffees and gave the guys a gift card for sun block.


Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn.

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