When I was a journalist, I once wrote a negative news story about a major company, and unfortunately there was a slight problem. I was given a quote by the company, which addressed the issue at hand in a very roundabout way. I included the quote in my story, but it was subsequently eliminated during editing.
The morning the story ran, my public relations contact at the company in question called me and inquired why the quote had not run. I had yet to see the story in print or online, so I wasn’t sure myself. I apologized and suggested I be given time to speak with my editors. The public relations contact agreed this was the best course of action.
After looking at what I filed and the story that was published, and after speaking with my editor, I still wasn’t sure why the quote didn’t run. Nevertheless, I took responsibility and told the public relations contact it was my fault. I suggested he write an email to me, which I could forward to my editor, requesting a correction. I also suggested that we play a “wait and see” game. The story was negative, but not very important. I was of the feeling that it wouldn’t get any second-day media coverage.
The public relations contact did write a very professional and forceful email which I forwarded to my editors. To my knowledge, and unfortunately, we did not run a correction. (Corrections sometimes don’t appear online or in the actual section where the original story appeared.) There was no second-day coverage from other media outlets and I did not hear back from the public relations contact.
I respect the fact that the public relations contact handled the situation professionally. As I said before, I’ll take the blame for a mistake, and I did apologize. What I found interesting was that the public relations contact stayed cool and calm. He did not “flip out” or make accusations.
While we should all strive to minimize mistakes, they’re inevitable. In the past, I’ve had to deal with public relations contacts raving and screaming, damaging our relationship far beyond a simple mistake. In this case, despite being unhappy that a mistake occurred, I’m glad I dealt with a professional. This individual’s reasonable behavior increased my respect not only for him, but for his company. And that’s the sign of a true public relations pro in my book.
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/.