The following is a look at one week in the life of an ex-journalist–i.e., me–and the public relations headaches and hurdles I had to deal with. There may be some happy stories in there as well. Think of this a little look behind the scenes for public relations professionals wondering how their work truly impacts those writers and reporters they spend their workweek wooing.
Monday: Wake up around 8:30 AM and check my email. 18 press release, and not one that piques my interest. The first phone call of the day is from a PR person complaining about my column in today’s newspaper. I was “too negative.” That’s my job. The call ends abruptly when I tell her I have to go because I don’t feel like continuing the conversation. Five minutes later she emails me to apologize for her tone. I make a mental note to not answer my phone for the rest of the day.
I check my messages: nine calls from public relations contacts. One launches into a full pitch, gets cut off by the voicemail system, and then resumes in a second message. By the time I head to the bar at 6:00 PM, I’ve received over 100 press releases via email and fax. I keep about 25 for further reference and permanently delete the rest. I return no calls to public relations reps.
Tuesday: My phone rings at 8:15 AM and it’s the public relations rep for a major technology company complaining that I misquoted him three weeks ago. I pull up the article, read his quotes back to him, and ask where I’ve misquoted him. I’m met by silence. “Oh man, I’m so sorry. I was looking at the wrong article.”
Two hours later, I’m finally somewhat awake and ready to read my email. Another 35 or so press releases fly by my eyes. Nothing catches my interest. Why do I keep getting press releases from a certain retailer?
Finally get an interesting pitch from a PR contact. I’ve never dealt with this person, but I like the way she hooked me on a potential story. I ask her to send me an email with some more info. 10 minutes later it arrives. This one could be a winner sometime down the road. Have a great conversation with the publicist for a high-profile tech company who promises me a good story in a few weeks. I love publicists at the moment; they’re making my job so easy. Break the 100 press release barrier again by the end of business.
Wednesday: Public relations departments seem to be getting antsy. Four different PR people keep emailing me asking me to attend events. I don’t like being cornered and pitched while drinking free scotch and scarfing down tiny hot dogs. I actually RSVP for one event, then remember I can’t attend, then forget to un-RSVP. That’s a no-no on my part.
I get a bunch of calls following-up on press releases sent earlier in the week. Spend the afternoon trying to figure out what to write for PR Fuel. I quiz a few PR people I know and get some good ideas. One even slips in a pitch. Last call of the day is a return call from a publicist I contacted so long I’ve forgotten why I called them in the first place. They try to pitch me on something, but I’m too busy playing a computer game. Lots of grunts and sighs from my end before it’s sorry, got to go, dinner time.
Thursday: Now it’s my turn to panic. Over 300 press releases since Monday, and I still need a topic for my column. My sources are coming up empty. I can only write so many analytical pieces about online advertising or the state of telecom.
I start calling public relations contacts trying to get a scoop, any scoop. They all know my rule: Give me something hard, something with teeth, and something you’re not announcing until Monday. Nothing.
I decide to write a scathing column about a major tech company that has gotten on my nerves. Legit, but a total slam job. The public relations contact begs me not to write it. Wracking my brain for ideas, calling sources, and pestering public relations departments all afternoon. Is my little corner of the business world dead?
Finally, around 5:00 PM, I get a call with a scoop. I confirm with other sources and place a late call to a certain company’s public relations contact. She’s not in, so I leave a message at her office and on her cell phone. Off to the bar.
Friday: That PR contact from that certain company calls me back at 9:00 AM. I get a temporary “no comment, but let me look into it .” I give a hard deadline 2:00 PM for last response.
Somehow around noon I end up taking a call from another PR contact who bursts into tears upon hearing that I’m not interested in her client. Ten minutes of sobs, gasps, gulps, and sniffles. Her job may be on the line; she can’t seem to get her client press. I offer some encouragement and advice. To get her off the phone, I tell her to call a friend of mine who covers the beat she needs to be pitching. She thanks me and then hangs up rather quickly. Was I just played?
It’s 2:05 PM and my editor needs my column for Monday. One last call to that certain company’s certain PR contact and then it’s time to file. Luckily, the “no comment” sticks. There’s a conversation about how it’s hard to foster a relationship with me because I’m pessimistic. Isn’t this how the week started?
I file my column. The email press releases are down to a trickle. My phone hasn’t rung since the tearful PR rep. Time to call it week.
In Review: I returned only about 5 percent of the public relations calls I got this week. I responded to about a dozen emails from PR people. I also spent a lot time on the phone with publicists, chasing facts and hunting stories ideas. It was a good week on the other side of public relations.
This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.