Oxymoron Alert: ‘Media Relations’

Quiz time: You work in PR and you receive an email or voice mail from a reporter on deadline requesting an interview. Your company or client is not particularly interested in commenting, either because of the topic, the size of the publication, or its target audience. Do you:

    a) Ignore the request, figuring that if it’s important enough the reporter will email or call back.
    b) Ignore the initial and all subsequent requests, reasoning that you don’t know the reporter and/or the publication he is writing for, so the request is not worth your time
    c) Tell the reporter that you are checking into your executives’ availability and will be back in touch – then do nothing or simply forget about the request as you move on to more pressing matters.
    d) Thank the reporter for the request but explain that your company/client is not interested in participating in the story.

I experienced each of those scenarios during my reporting last month for a feature on outdoor advertising. I can handle rejection, so d) is cool. I can respect the overwhelming number of requests that flacks at major brands receive each day, so even a) is grudgingly acceptable. But when so-called “media relations” people don’t bother to return or even acknowledge legitimate requests from reporters, they’re not doing their job. Don’t ignore me, or worse, don’t insult me by saying “we’ll get back to you” when you have no intention of doing so.

What are you thinking? Maybe you’ve figured out the whole consumer empowerment thing and assume you can disintermediate journalists and take your message directly to your customers. Maybe you’re just lazy. Or ignorant. Here’s one response I received from the Manager of North American Sales and Service Communications at a large U.S. automaker (OK, it was Ford):

Could you explain exactly what you’re talking about?  I have no idea what out of home advertising is. 

I fear for you.

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2 thoughts on “Oxymoron Alert: ‘Media Relations’”

  1. this is partly why I truly believe that PR is a dishonorable profession.
    there are plenty of examples of terrible flackery. apple, for example. they don’t comment on ANYTHING, even benign stuff. when I was at forbes.com I became so frustrated with their lack of commenting I asked them “well, can you give me an example of a topic that you WOULD comment on?” you guessed it….they had no comment.

  2. that’s been my experience with Apple too. But for this story at least, they at least had the courtesy to call me back and say “sorry, we don’t talk much about our advertising strategy.”

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