Today in his blog, David Maister shared a link to a speech by Tommy Fernandez, about the 10 reasons the media hates the PR profession.
Fernandez recently retired from the legal beat at Crain’s New York Business and took the opportunity to speak his mind.
The speech was given at the July meeting of Law Firm Media Professionals, and it wasn’t pretty. Here is one of the most inflammatory quotes, and there were plenty:
“So, you may be strutting around, thinking you got your thang going. Kicking ass for your client, but behind your back my entire profession is making fun of you.”
However, I learned a lot from this speech, and while it is long, I recommend PR professionals that deal with the media in any way read it. Not all reporters are so cynical, and not all public relations pros make these mistakes so egregiously as Fernandez recounts. None-the-less, I distilled Five Tips to Get the Media to Love You, or at least tone it down a step from all-out hate:
Be a resource for a reporter when they need you. Reporters are not looking for someone to write their story; they are looking for reliable contacts and information. Fernandez says, “I'm just looking for raw materials for my chicken soup.” Give quotes and sources that contain enlightening details that will be interesting to the readers, listeners or viewers; on deadline; and with as little fuss as possible.
Understand the point of view of the reporter. They are overstressed, in demand and skeptical. When they take a pitch, their credibility and sometimes even their job, is on the line. As Fernandez said, “Now tell me, what the heck is so special about [insert your organization] that I am going to risk my job for you? Wait, let me make this harder, what is it about [insert your organization] that is special AND hasn't also been bragged to me by two other people…in the past hour?”
Don’t leave a reporter hanging. Your credibility depends on it. If you promise statistics, then send the statistics; if you promise a source, deliver the source. Fernandez complains about the bait and switch that sometimes goes on with PR firms, offering one source and substituting another. If you don’t deliver, you might find that the reporter doesn’t take your call and doesn’t write about you or your clients until something comes up that you would rather they not write about, then you have lost the all-important benefit of the doubt.
Get an attitude adjustment. Avoid the two extremes, don’t beg for coverage and don’t imply that the reporter should be thrilled to cover [insert your event or pitch here]. Here is an exchange Fenandez reported in the speech. “What do you mean you don't want to spend three hours with our managing committee to educate us on every single aspect of your editor's wardrobe needs? The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post did this. Surely, you don't want to revel in your own ignorance (that last one folks, was not an exaggeration. Someone actually said that.)”
Get out of the way, the story isn’t about you. As Fernandez says, “It could be a matter of talking incessantly about your accomplishments, about yourself, about your family, whatever. It could be something so subtle as not knowing when to simply shut up and let your client talk. It could be something like being married to a particular press release, being married to a particular story idea, or wanting to assert some kind of master-of-the-universe dominance over a reporter.” One of the things he mentions is bombarding the reporter with too much information, which goes back to #1, which is to be a resource.
I know there are many other tips, and I hope you share them in the comments of this post, or on your own blog (if you have one). But, as a parting gift, I want to give you one more piece of advice, try to refrain from beating up the reporter, even if you don’t like his coverage (via Lost Remote).
Apparently the perpetrator is still threatening the reporter after he got out on bond today. Here is the local coverage of the assault of Reporter John Mattes of KTLA Fox Channel 6 in San Diego.