Thursday, September 15, 2011

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Sometimes, probably on our worst days, being a publicist can feel like being a glorified telemarketer. On those days, it seems that journalists feel the same way about us. Many of them have posted diatribes on their personal sites about us and how to pitch them properly. Whole sites are devoted to just that topic.

However, many publicists do the job right. (More good ones than bad, I hope.) The good ones make sure to create targeted lists of journalists and outlets that will care about our story. They read, view, and listen to journalists’ work before pitching them. And they create short, well-written pitches to hit the mark.

We are actually an asset to journalists, if only they would see beyond the words “public relations.” To get the most of out of us, journalists could actually use a few tips of their own for dealing with PR people.

1. Answer the phone. At least once in a while. I mean, seriously, we’re going to keep calling you. And if you don’t want to answer the phone, at least email something back. Which brings me to my next one …

2. It’s OK to say no. I would rather get an honest answer from you than the usual, “I’m waiting to hear from my editor,” or “It sounds interesting.” However, if you are going to say no, please let us know why you’re saying no. Our clients and bosses are going to ask us for a reason, so please give us one right off the bat. Sometimes we may push back a bit, but for the most part a well-phrased reason will get you off the hook. Offering another journalist is a great way to get us to leave you alone and could actually be helpful to both us and the new contact.

3. Email is a great way to connect to us.
If you respond to our emails when we send them, chances are you won’t even get a call. Now, I know you get a lot of email, but with all the filters these days, you should be able to tell the good ones from the bad ones. And we love to get email responses just as much as you love not getting our phone calls.

4. Blocking an entire agency’s email address is really uncool.
Plus, it is unfair to the decent publicists that may work there. If we really want to get you, we can always email from our personal boxes or sign up for another email address. Another thing to consider, agency turnaround is about as bad as the turnaround in the media. You may be missing that great next story because of a bad PR rep that was at an agency two years ago.

5. Take that call from Cision, Vocus, and MyMediaInfo. When you take another job, you should reach out to them to update your listing. Make sure the correct information about you is out there for us, especially how you like to be contacted. We are going to contact you no matter what, so it might as well be the right pitch, in the right way. At the very least you should make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date. The good publicists check that site, too.

Like the publicists that reporters like to complain about, not all journalists make our lives as PR pros difficult. I recently had a great interaction with San Jose Mercury News reporter, Troy Wolverton. He actually answers his phone! And he really checked his inbox for my email and then sent a response.

When I asked why he wasn’t interested, he gave me a reason and then suggested another reporter who might be interested in my story. We love those kinds of reporters.

Remember, ours can be a symbiotic relationship, if we each read each other’s tips.

Tracy Bagatelle-Black has been in the PR business for 16 years. Currently, she is an account manager at RLM Public Relations, running its West Coast operations. She has also done time at Hill & Knowlton, The Terpin Group, Activision, and PeopleLink. A version of this story first appeared on the blog PRBreakfastClub.


Courtesy: Kalayan Chakravarty, Hyderabad IMPRIMIS PR.

Take stock at home to curb corruption

Democratic India integrates. Fights Corruption unitedly. Social activist Anna Hazare, the crusader of the so called anti-corruption fight, brands it as the second freedom struggle. The movement named- India Against Corruption, has received phenomenal support from all directions and quarters of life. It gained further momentum after Anna’s arrest by the Delhi Police, hours before his scheduled fast for a strong Jan Lokpal. Millions of Indians protested against Anna’s arrest and rallied behind him. The government succumbed to the pressure of citizens, and released Anna to hold his fast.

The public’s support to Anna is witness to their angst against corruption. Interestingly, Anna’s protesters included a large chunk of ignorant children. They participated because their parents were a part of it. Undoubtedly, India is one of the largest democracy in the world, and its citizens have the right to protest peacefully. However, is the recommended Jan Lokpal Bill the only panacea to iron out corruption? Is corruption only big ticket corruption? I’ve my reservations.  

It was heartening to see school principals and teachers taking to streets in support of Anna; to free the country from the rule of corruption. Do I assume none of the parents in the country will ever have to cough up huge sum of money in the name of donation to admit their child/ children henceforth? The way the youth has joined the Anna bandwagon, confirms their resolve to be law abiding citizens going forward. Seems they would never ever jump a traffic signal in the absence of a cop; if they are caught jumping, will pay the fine instead of negotiating or bribing the traffic police. These examples might seem insignificant as compared to the big ticket corruption. But the small corruptions are the building blocks to the biggest scams.

The Jan Lokpal is at a macro level. But I feel the root cause of corruption is at a micro level- Our Sweet Homes. As parents we are smitten by the comparison bug. Rather than focusing on holistic development of a child, we tend to pressurize the child with our obsession for good marks and grades. Parents can’t digest poor performance of their child/ children. After all, societal stakes are high: child/ children being the flag bearers of excellence for their families. Parents themselves are not setting the right precedence for their children. Do they sincerely rejoice and celebrate the success of their kith and kin or make it a comparison platform? Sadly, the actual purpose of education has lost its purpose in the contemptuous world of hate, jealously and ego. This is the breeding ground for corruption.       

Given the current scenario, I wouldn’t be surprised if Anna embarks on his third freedom struggle- “Preaching Parents for a Salubrious Society”. Wonder how many enthusiast billions would want to be a part of such a movement for a cause! As humans we consider ourselves God’s gift to mankind, and therefore consider it our democratic right to preach, but not be preached.

How much time does a parent spend talking about the virtues that determine or fortify the character of an individual? In this 3G world, the positioning of the brand “Become a trustworthy person with outstanding caliber” has lost its bandwidth in our value system. Mind you, the caliber I’m referring to here is, over all growth and not just academics.

Among siblings, the phrase “Sharing is caring” has been replaced with “Survival of the fittest”. Majority of property dispute cases parked in various levels of court, belong to family property dispute. The disputes being civil or criminal in nature. Isn’t this corruption? The solution is not a Jan Lokpal Bill alone, but responsible parenting. The heart of I, Me, Myself has to transform into You and Me. Living in unity and harmony must be regarded much more blissful than isolation.

In the recent past, many heinous crimes have been committed by the educated urban middle class professionals working in renowned firms. And the primary reason for killing their loved ones: monetary gains or infidelity. Who takes the responsibility for such acts: parents or government?

We are in the 21st century. Hailed as the century of women. Ironically, dowry among the literate middle class is still rampant. In many of the families, parents want their sons to be highly qualified not to contribute to society, but to demand from society. The prospective groom in question is like a commodity for auction rather than a valued, humble caring human being. They come with a price tag attached to their qualifications. Few of the same youth are on the streets shouting slogans against corruption, but don’t have the courage to say “NO” to dowry. What do we call this the Youth of India Against Corruption?  

Corruption can only be uprooted through integrated efforts of individuals and policies. Jan Lokpal alone can tackle just one part of the problem on a larger scale- system, policies etc. Correct parenting along with education forms the other part of the Jan Lokpal Bill. I personally think, this Bill is just a way to keep reminding us of the dire consequences of filling our pockets and bank accounts through illegal means, but no way guarantees restraint from falling prey to temptations of quick bucks.

However, the assurance lies in education along with development of indestructible self- a self which can’t be bought or broken. We all have well wishers pouring blessings on us, but the one blessing which is deeply entrenched in my heart and mind is: “Become responsible parents.”

We are the reason for corruption. The least we can do to annihilate corruption at our end, is to forge the character of our children by setting correct examples. Do we need a messiah and a third freedom struggle to teach us the desired values for our children?

Shivani Venugopal