As PR practices go, we often hear complaints from incoming, new or current clients about the other PR firms they once hired, considered hiring or long ago left. It’s not unusual in the small and chatty circles of people in the communications business to dish. And they do.
In the interest of sharing our dish, here are some of our favorites (all real and true):
A company that hired us sent media lists that its previous agency used to distribute news releases. As we reviewed and made calls to update (no one is more persnickety about current and updated emails lists than @KyleComm), we discovered that one particular radio news director was no longer. Meaning expired. Meaning had died. The station had somehow never disconnected the deceased’s email. How long had the news director been dead with no one confirming email currency on this list? More than a year.
Should be Obvious: Don’t pitch dead people.
A PR practitioner for a hospital called to pitch a story to a reporter about a “unique” surgical procedure being done by a single doctor. No one else in the country was doing the same … you get the picture. When the reporter asked to interview the doctor, she was turned down. Why? The PR practitioner wanted to “do” the interview. The reporter declined, insisting to speak directly with the surgeon, who was likely the best source on the procedure. The practitioner responded that her interview had been good enough for The New York Times. Seriously. The reporter held out appropriately for an interview with the doctor.
Should be Obvious: Never invoke the name of another media outlet when pitching.
A national pharmaceutical maker decided it didn’t like an article published by a national newspaper. So it went to its local hometown newspaper to complain, convincing the local paper to publish an article (more like a statement) citing why it didn’t like the story that the local paper had somehow missed. The little paper never called the big paper for comment on the statement, deciding simply since it missed the scoop to chide the outlet that landed the scoop.
Should be Obvious: Never pit one media outlet against another.
A TV reporter asks for “someone on camera” to discuss “in general” policies that consumers don’t like. Assuring the PR contact that this only a “general explainer” is needed to “help consumers.” Sort of true. The interview is completed, but then chopped up to reply to a specific complaint made about the company specifically. A leading question is also asked, putting the interview subject on the spot with a leading answer cut to fit the piece. The PR contact who set up the interview failed to note the story was done during sweeps, when ratings are at a competitive high.
Should be Obvious: Always know when sweeps are underway.
Do you have a Don’t Pitch Dead People Story? Please share. Journalists and PR Pros both welcome.