Mary Branscombe (marypcb) wrote,
Mary Branscombe

Dear PRs: yes, it is unprofessional to phone and ask if we got your press release

We, as journalists, get dozens, sometimes hundreds of press releases a day (you should see the backlog of announcements from CES I'm still looking through and just wait for MWC). If you phone to ask if we received your release, it's very likely we will tell you that we don't appreciate this; some of us will do it more politely than others (I've heard colleagues deliver some truly ear-blistering retorts). The problem isn't just that if everyone phoned to find out if we'd received their release, we'd spend the day answering the phone rather than writing stories (or indeed reading any of the releases we get). After two decades of mentioning this to the PR folk I work with, I'm glad to say that it's much less common to get these irritating phone calls (because actually, the call doesn't ask 'did you receive our release?' because if you were worried about it arriving you'd use a delivery receipt or an email tracking service; it asks 'did you ignore our release and if so can we change your mind?' and if there's information that would make me want to know more about your announcement, shouldn't that have been in the initial release?).

I know juniors get to make these calls, which certainly doesn't help them build relationships with most journalists; your account director should be teaching you better. I've been told that PR-chasing calls are 'the client's idea' and that means you're not doing your job as a PR, which is to tell the client when they have a bad idea as well as when they have a good story.

What kind of calls do we appreciate? The ones that say 'Mary, we sent out a release on X and we think it's right up your street for reason Y and while we know that if you want to know more you'll contact us, we have this specific angle that we think fits the kind of story you write for Z and we have an opportunity for you to talk to A or B about it'. The ones that say 'we didn't just buy a list of journalists, we actually do our job as PRs by knowing which writers are a good fit for our client's products and press releases and how to get their interest'. Yes, with all that flood of announcements, it's possible we will miss a good story and if you're sure your announcement is so precisely the kind of thing we cover that you're surprised we haven't got in touch straight away we will appreciate you mentioning it - but if you know us that well, you won't be phrasing it as 'I'm phoning to see if you got our press release...'

Tags: pr, rant, writing

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