PR People: Annoying or Helpful?

Written by admin |

Journalists want to tell good stories.  PR people want to generate good stories about their clients or companies.  These objectives sometimes align, and sometimes they don’t.  It should come as no surprise, therefore, that tension is a frequent byproduct of journalism/PR encounters.

As a PR executive, I’m obviously disinclined to support complaints about my profession by journalists.  But I’ve also had opportunities to view the relationship between the two professions from a journalist’s perspective, through freelance reporting assignments that I’ve taken on periodically as a “sidebar” to my PR career.  And I’m not always pleased by the view.

Take a recent experience, for example.  I was corresponding with a friend I planned to interview for an article, and she suggested that we meet over lunch.  This sounded quite reasonable and pleasant, so I agreed.  She then informed me that she was obligated to loop her PR firm in on the arrangements.  That was fine by me — I am always telling my PR clients to do the same.

But then things got somewhat ridiculous.  The PR firm contacted me, asked me when the article was slated to run, how much time I needed to interview my friend, and when I was available, etc.  I provided responses, and the PR firm made the arrangements from that point. Needless to say, all of this could have been easily and quickly handled in my correspondence with my friend – no third-party involvement required.


Another frustrating incident took place when I was planning to interview a high-profile person at a high-profile organization.  Before I got the go-ahead to do so, the organization’s PR team insisted that I meet first with the VIP’s assistant.  This assistant was perfectly nice, but he couldn’t provide information relevant to my story, and it was clear that he was vetting me. The two hours we spent together were two hours I could have devoted instead to the actual VIP interview (which was eventually OKd).


So, yes, I have to acknowledge that we PR people can be annoying and even obstructive.  That said, the majority of encounters I’ve had with PR people in my writing capacity have been extremely positive. Sometimes I’ve submitted inquiries through the HARO and Profnet platforms, which help reporters find sources, and responses from PR execs have yielded some excellent interviewees — people I most certainly couldn’t have reached on my own through my personal network. Furthermore, PR people have helped me by following up with my interviewees when a deadline was looming, giving me relevant background information, and providing photos as needed.


I’ve concluded, therefore, that in most cases, the help that PR people provide outweighs the annoyance factor. Even though I and my PR colleagues work on behalf of our clients rather than reporters, we always strive to make the story development/interview process as smooth and pleasant as possible for both parties.  So journalists, please keep this help in mind the next time you’re tempted to refer to PR as “the dark side.” Admittedly, we’re going to irritate you from time to time, but without us, you’d be left in the dark.