Experience is undermined by authority

5 Jul

In response to Ged Carroll‘s PR Week blog cautioning PRs to realise that their newsworthy window stops the day after the campaign launch – all I can say is “it’s not (always) our fault”.

Easy to say – but what do I mean by this? Quite often my PR peers will share stories with me about how their managers and directors insist that a story has marathon legs and demand that their executives keep feeding it to the media, causing them to shamefully attribute their name to ‘press release version 5′, when they know all too well that it won’t get picked up. But, why does this happen?

1. Top tier PRs are fully focused on strategy and the bigger picture which causes them to become detached from media relations.

Yes – they may know the business inside out and perhaps they were a journalist in their past life. But, do they know the current contacts of their bread and butter publications? Possibly not. Are they up-to-date with the current PR slots available in the magazine? Unlikely.

2. These said PRs set high KPIs without understanding the reality of the media landscape.

What I’m trying to say is that the expectation of results is generally a separate conversation held between directors and the client – with executives who have the day-to-day relationships with journalists generally sidelined.

There needs to be a more open forum of communication where, regardless of hierarchy, PRs can come together in their teams and be frank about what works and what doesn’t. Executives’ words are to be trusted. Their close relationship with the journalists means they know how much ‘give and take’ there has been recently, which puts them in a good position to pull favours when appropriate. More than this, their experience means they can identify ‘off the wall’ quick-win opportunities, understand which ‘warm leads’ to continue chasing for the column inches at the end of the rainbow and those to bin.

Yes – journalists and bloggers may get ‘new’ news eight days after the big event has taken place. But, just remember that whoever’s sign off is on the email, wasn’t necessarily in the driving seat.

Do you receive campaign emails in over-drive? What bugs you the most?

PS – Ged – Sorry that I’m only responding now after you blogged on this six days ago. It was new to me today on my e-alert.

One Response to “Experience is undermined by authority”

  1. Ged Carroll at 7:42 pm #

    Hi Donna,

    I can’t say I am terribly surprised. Your observations were depressingly similar to my own when I started off in agency life back in 1998 – myself and my peers never wanted to be ‘that director’ having been on the raw end of it.

    Part of the challenge is that many people are promoted without having an ability to be a people manager and mistake obsequiousness for client service. There is this word ‘no’ which is curiously absent from many client conversations.

    A key difference between now and then is that in many sectors there has been a massive contraction in the amount of media space available in many sectors so ‘that director’ now is likely to have even less of a clue than they had ten years ago.

    However, it still doesn’t make it right to ship out a press release a week after the news has happened.

    Best regards,


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