Just so you know – this is how to be an awesome communicator…

I recently made a follow-up call to a New York television news show regarding a weekend client event. A non PR friend of mine was with me and made an observation after overhearing the exchange.

“I can understand why journalists hate PR people,” he said.

After I scoffed in disagreement, I thought “meh, he has a point.”

I didn’t think too much of it at the time, but it all came back when this gem popped up on Gawker – the skies parted and angels sang.

Douglas Britt is the “Society/ visual arts writer” for the Houston Chronicle andhe sent out a 15-point email to “every gallerist/cultural group in Houston,” according to this Gawker article. This man is reproachful in my book. Tact isn’t one of his strong suits, but let’s play a little devil vs. angel here and examine what we can actually take away from this narrative.

The good:

  1. For every jerk journalist there is, I’m sure there are two
    Italy, Rome, angels statues, Castel Sant'Angelo in background, sunset

    jerk PR people. Mr. Britt makes some valid points (stated politely or not). For instance, “don’t nag,” is a great tip that all of us should take to heart. Persistence is key and journalists might not be able to know about everything going on in your client’s world. So we must send those media advisories and press releases to inform:“It IS a good idea to keep spamming me with press releases.” With that said, calling 15 times in one day is not only going to most likely lose you a placement, but also any shot at a good relationship with that journalist.

  2. Do your research – Mr. Britt asks that people do not send him invitations ashis publication does not print them. We must do our due diligence and know the outlet we are pitching. If you’ve never seen them post or run an event invitation, odds are they aren’t going to start with yours.
  3. Make the “why” important. This is what will get your story good traction.
  4. Mr. Britt asks for word-of-mouth information. I’ve always found giving tips and information that’s circulating to a journalist as a nice way to help possibly inspire their next piece, find resources and generally be helpful. Making a habit of supplying useful information will help build a relationship with a journalist and hopefully they look to you for pitches and ideas in the future.
Silhouette of the devil

The plain ole nasty:

  1. The man is ironically punishing us with the wordiest of e-mails. He cries out for brevity, but he sure ain’t handing it out (thus the Gawker article title).
  2. His snark is incredibly not charming. I’ve met some serious curmudgeons in my experience working with journalists and PR people, and many have an endearing air about them. Despite their biting words, they are likeable. Some of the snarkiest people I’ve met in this line of work have put the biggest smiles on my face.
  3. He’s bossy: “I would strongly suggest copying this e-mail to a Word doc or something you can save on your hard drive, as well as printing a copy and keeping it handy.” Yeah…ok.
  4. He’s rude: “PLEASE STOP ASKING what it’s like covering society…” Apologies for making the least awkward small-talk we could at the moment in time. “…that kind of chatter drains the life out of me…” #headdesk
  5. I would be embarrassed for my boss to see this if I were him. “And chances are you know plenty I don’t, because I’m always chained to the desk here.” Put aside the overarching voice of this e-mail and Mr. Britt should get a wrist slap for expressing in more words or less that he has an ever-so-oppressive job.
  6. There are grammatical/spelling errors. Makes it less effective. Enough said.

What are your thoughts on Mr. Britt’s e-mail or any of the above? Eager to hear your feedback.

Kate Ottavio

This post was written by Kate Ottavio a PR professional working in Manhattan. You can find her at twitter.com/kottavio.

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