A publicist, a lawyer, and a politician walk into a bar…
Yep. Sounds like the start to a bad joke. When asked at events, “What do you do?” I cringe a bit when I respond that I am a publicist, except in the instances when I am speaking to lawyers and politicians—even some real estate agents—and then we all breathe a collective sigh of relief. In some circles, public relations is a career with a bad rap. In many cases it’s well deserved. But all publicists are not getting it wrong. After all, not all media people are ethical (read: those who ask for samples with no intention to review them).
It’s disheartening to read about what people in the media think about publicists. At PMG we work tirelessly to be the best partner to the press that we can. Then you read things like this
, and this blog
. What pushed me to write this post was this article
by a local Vermont food writer at our alternative weekly who calls out two of our associates without naming them—we knew it was us.
First off, thank you. For all the feedback on how to pitch (or not pitch) you that you offer through your articles, you are helping us fine-tune our approach. Seriously.
We pore over it, cringe, pray it’s not from one of our pitches, and then—if needed—adjust what we’re doing. Over the years, we have learned to pitch more on topic, do our homework, and then do some more. We want to pitch the appropriate person at the right outlet, think more like a journalist and less like a marketer in our approach, be better at helping press get what they need well in advance of when they need it, and then back off when they need us to step away or if they can’t use our pitch.
Let’s face it, there are people in every profession who do not do their jobs well. Why are we hearing more about publicists as of late? I think it is because the media has an existing audience and platform. If I wanted to call out one of my vendors publicly, I would have to really put some effort into making that happen. For the press it’s easy.
So, how can we use the media’s feedback to improve on what we’re doing on behalf of our clients? We can spend more time researching outlets, and specifically journalists and the beats that they cover to really understand what to pitch them. We can build better relationships with them so we know how they like to be pitched. More important, we can ask how as publicists we can be most useful to them.
Our team has built great relationships with so many local, national, and international journalists by taking this approach. (For this I thank our media partners who get it.) Do we always get it right? Nope. But, we’re human and we admit when we make mistakes, apologize when we may have ruffled feathers, and try to figure out how to make it up to the journalist we may have offended.
To the media: You are going to be pitched. It’s that simple. If you choose to delete all of the pitches without responding, or toss all of the samples that you receive—that’s your prerogative. But it’s part of being a journalist. Publicists are going to pitch you. As a side note: If you get samples from a PR type and you don’t want them, if possible donate them to the local food shelf, or a place like this
Bottom line: We are doing our jobs. Just like the lawyer and the politician—and the journalist, too. When we can work collaboratively on a story (obviously, when it makes sense for the journalist to do so), we can all finish the day with a smile instead of a grimace.
Nicole Ravlin is a partner and publicist at People Making Good, an PR agency that specializes exclusively in publicity and media relations. Follow Nicole on Twitter @pmgnicole. A version of this story originally appeared on the agency's blog.