Over at his Influential Marketing Blog Rohit has posts on what PR people should know about journalists, and vice versa. The information is good and worth reading, but most publicists won’t find any surprises.
But if most publicists know this information, why does it seem as though it’s rarely put into practice? There are, after all, countless posts from publicists offering similar advice, frequent cases of journalists complaining about publicists and even a blog dedicated to exposing the industry’s most thoughtless pitches.
Rohit’s readers offer some explanations, and I encourage everyone to read the comment threads. While I see many culprits (the economic model of PR firms, client pressure and so forth) the first cause is surely this: PR is an industry with absolutely no barrier to entry. Qualifications and training are not a prerequisite for any aspect of the work that we do, nor are they required by (most) clients.
So where do we go from here? PR is still a relatively young industry. It seems likely that, with experience, clients will become increasingly sophisticated in how they provision and evaluate firms. Evolution, however, takes time.
In the short term maybe PR people should get to know something else about journalists: they are exposed to constant feedback. This feedback exposes flaws, raises new ideas, angles and topics to be explored and – when necessary – punishes the most egregious cases of journalistic misconduct. Ultimately feedback refines journalism, making it more dynamic and vital.
Today, publicists are exposed to only a small amount of feedback from journalists. Perhaps it’s time we took a page out the old media playbook and invited more. A few years ago the New York Times created a ‘Public Editor’ or ombudsmen to investigate reader concerns and report their findings; perhaps it’s time PR firms did the same.