March 30, 2011 Leave a comment
Few things get a reporter or editor more upset than lying.
Lying in an interview. Lying about the hook of a pitch. Lying about who is available for an interview. Lying is not good.
And sometimes being aggressive crosses the subtle line into lying. It’s a line you HAVE to be mindful of.
Consider this real life example from my files a few months ago:
A PR rep contacts me with a story idea that’s a month out. I clearly explain that we cannot book the story until the week of (it’s a feature-y piece) and suggest that we touch base at that time. I’m very clear that nothing is definite.
This PR rep calls back a week early, gets a DIFFERENT reporter on the phone and says quite aggressively (I should know, I was sitting next to them when the call came in):
“Colby wanted to book this interview. When can we set it up?”
Was I interested in the interview? Yup. Would we probably have covered it? Yup?
But calling the newsroom and putting words in a reporter or editor’s mouth is not wise.
It may not seem like a big deal … after all, I did say we were interested …. but I also said I wasn’t sure we could fit it in …. consider this:
What if we were hit by a major breaking story or a massive exclusive that needed the full attention of the newsroom? Now imagine that in the midst of this, our news director sees one of our reporters doing a fluffy interview “that I told him to get.” Sure we can straighten things out, but not before a frustrating series of conversations with the ND and the reporter.
Also, keep in mind that reporters do not want to bungle a relationship with a PR rep. If they believe someone else in the newsroom set up an interview, or wanted to set up the interview, they’re going to move forward.
Can you guess whether that story made air on our station?
A better alternative would have been:
“Hi, this is Trudy from Such and Such Firm. Colby and I spoke a while back about this interview. Time is coming up fast and our schedule is booking up fast. What’s the best way to get in touch with him to check our calendars?”
Just like a REPORTER can kill a connection to a PR source by misprinting a single word (leaving out “allegedly” anyone?) it is imperative that the PR side can walk that fine line between aggressive . . . and OVERLY aggressive.