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Public Relations


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#1 Hopleaf

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Posted 29 May 2002 - 06:57 AM

Jeanne,

To what degree do you rely upon, are influenced by and are annoyed by public relations efforts of food manufacturers, distributors, marketers, etc.?  Having previously worked in PR, we used to say that on an average about 75% of media content is provided by public relations working on behalf of and for the interests of clients.  Would you say your food section relys upon PR or is influenced by it quite that much?  

Thanks,

Hopleaf
"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut." -Ernest Hemingway

#2 Jeanne McManus

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Posted 03 June 2002 - 02:58 PM

I worked outside of the office one day last week. When I called work  to retrieve voice mail at midday, there were 13 messages; 10 of them were from PR companies. I get calls from PR agents asking if we’re going to do any stories for Thanksgiving; I get calls asking if I got press materials I didn’t ask for. I get calls telling me that they want to “share” ideas for the Fourth of July. I get calls asking me how they can “place” a story. I get calls asking if I would share with them my opinions of a product that they sent that I didn’t ask for. I get calls asking if I will be writing about their product and if not why not. I got persistent calls last autumn from people asking if I’d received their letters or products, just a few days after anthrax had killed 5 people. They hadn’t heard about the problem with the mail.

I can’t imagine holding down my job if even one percent of the section relied on or was influenced by PR.
We get stuff in the mail. We throw it out, or if it’s not perishable we give it to charity.  We get packages and bottles and boxes from major food manufacturers. If they looked at the section or our web site even for one month they would know: we NEVER write about such products. We’re reporters. We like to find stuff ourselves.  We are not fed information, we do not PLACE stories. We come up with    ideas and we get the information ourselves.

I would say that the only exceptions, the only time we write about things that have been sent to us, it’s the occasional gizmo or gadget that we think is worthwhile and cost effective, but it just kills me when I then proceed to look at other food sections and see them writing about the same gizmo or gadget. We look like we’re part of a pack, and I never want that to happen.

#3 Hopleaf

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Posted 04 June 2002 - 08:17 AM

Omigawd!!!!   I feel the need to personally apologize for the PR bombardment you must experience on a daily basis.  It's ridiculous what goes on.  One of the reasons I'm no longer working in that lecherous environment was the pressure younger associates are put under to produce 'hits.'  Basically your job depends upon successfully convincing reporters like yourself, who typically know better than to waste their time, to give free exposure to your client's products, brands, etc.  I had my fair share of such 'success' but really hated every minute of it.  It's one of the most evil professions out there, considering how much it can influence public opinion (both truthfully and manipulatively), further increase corporate executive's personal and business profits, and manage corporate failure through 'crisis communication.'  Someone should really blow the lid off this field of marketing.  

Just about all the things you listed as part of the 10 PR voice messages I've had to leave those messages (much to my personal chagrin at the time).  Towards the end, I just told my bosses that I'd left messages asking 'if you've received the press kit I sent?' whereas I didn't cus I was so jaded about the effectiveness, morality and interpersonal kharma I was involved in.  

If I can make one suggestion to make your lives better...I'm not sure how you respond to media directory companies, but if you're ever asked for contact details from Bacon's, Burrells or whatever, you should tell them to include in your information that PR companies are to absolutely not contact you under any circumstances or mail you anything (or whatever limitations you want to set).  Perhaps you already do this, but as one of the few concerned PR cogs, I would read those contact notes religiously as they were the only thing that gave me a hint of how to go about (if at all) contacting a writer.  

Also, you might want to pitch your boss to give you and all the editors and writers at the Post caller ID on your telephones, and then maybe even Privacy manager.  Two things like that might cost some money, but in the long run the paper would save on all the money they spend on asprin.  

I have to say that as a rule, I tried to build relationships with media people...help them fill stories out with input from my clients.  This was easier with the associations (who typically wanted to provide consumer information) I represented rather than the food companies (who only wanted exposure for their products).
"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut." -Ernest Hemingway

#4 Jeanne McManus

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Posted 04 June 2002 - 04:41 PM

I hope everyone in PR reads your response. Thanks. Yes, I should mention that there are 5 or 6 local PR folks who are extremely helpful to me, if I need to track down one of their clients. We did a story last summer about "restaurant rage" that was the result of a lunch I had with a very good local PR person. So I don't want to brand them all.

Re caller ID: I have it. But, as a journalist, I have to tell you: I think I have an obligation to pick up my phone when it rings. Because, you know what? You never know where your next great story may come from.

And if it's a PR person on the end, I try to be polite and brief. I was a waitress and bartender once. It was a formative experience.