PR: “We, er, we don’t have any news today”

One of the most interesting phenomenons I see as Editor here at Mobile Industry Review is the culture of ‘no news’ from a lot of public relations professionals I talk to.

I am delighted to talk with PRs. Some media absolutely abhor being contacted and pitched by PRs. I think it’s excellent — I’m happy to be ‘pitched’ by either PR or directly from readers and interested parties.

Regularly we’re sent news — most of it relevant, and we do our best to get it up and out. That’s fine. We don’t distinguish between PR or you, the reader. We make a value judgment as to whether we publish irrespective of who sent it.

I’m continually surprised by how many public relations professionals cannot handle the opposite. Routinely I send out a note to them asking if they’ve got any shout-outs for the weekly newsletter or the podcast. This isn’t restricted to PRs — it’s a public thing we do.

I like doing shout-outs. I think it’s a nice way of recognising efforts, launches, achievements or simply just saying ‘nice work’ to folk across the industry. Most shout-outs are a few words or a sentence. Nice and easy. If you’d like a shout-out, simply knock it over to me or to Krystal and we’ll put it in.

I like to ask the PRs too.

How many of them reply to me saying ‘No, sorry, we don’t have any news this week?’

About 80%.

Fascinating! Absolutely fascinating. I do sometimes feel like questioning this. What do you mean you’ve got ‘no news’? NOTHING has happened with your clients? Nothing… at all? What you mean is that you haven’t got a press release to issue. But you’ve most certainly got news. Surely? If you don’t, what the hell are you doing in the PR industry?

But, well, it seems a large chunk of the PR industry is stuck in broadcast mode. Happy to talk to you if they’re flogging a press release, but highly, highly unable to react to a request for a shout-out.

So, if you’ve got a PR agency working furiously on your behalf, contact me and I’ll tell you if they’re in the ‘Er, no news’ list. I do, actually, have a list of the companies. You shouldn’t be paying them if they can’t broadcast and react.

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17 Responses to PR: “We, er, we don’t have any news today”

  1. Ken Saunders August 19, 2008 at 8:32 am #

    Jamba and Opera Software Partner to Integrate Premier Content into Mobile Browsers:

    LOS ANGELES, Calif. / BERLIN, Germany / OSLO, Norway, August 18, 2008

  2. Nick Dillon August 19, 2008 at 10:41 am #

    Ewan, I completely get your point and it must seem crazy that one day a PR is sending you a torrent of emails and phone calls about an announcement they are making and they next they have nothing, but this is more often than not down to the client than the agency. In defence of the PR, I have some clients who trust us completely and give us a free reign to go off and create whatever coverage we can for them, while other clients will want you to get approval from them before you blow your nose in front of a journalist. Generally speaking, the larger clients are the more paranoid ones, making the PRs less likely to p'ss them off over a piece of unwanted coverage – its sad, but true.

    Out of interest, have you ever tried asking Apple's PR agency if they have any news? I'm sure they are a great agency, but I would be surprised if they could magic up news for such a company at the drop of a hat.

  3. LeilR August 19, 2008 at 11:26 am #

    If you are on the mobile marketing industry, blogging is one effective tool to reach target. Press releases are good, but you need to sustain the buzz. So better inform your PR firms about the big opportunity they are missing if they ignore big opportunities of having big online coverage by these respected mobile marketing analysts and journalists.

  4. smstextnews August 19, 2008 at 12:04 pm #

    Nick, excellent points. I obviously never bother with Apple's PR. I'm talking about shout-out style news, not making stuff out of thin air. Things like somebody-just-got-married or X-just-hit-300m-users. Stuff that generally wouldn't warrant a full post on the site.

  5. fmoran August 22, 2008 at 8:17 am #

    Ewan, I can't tell you the number of times we have won new business from a client that told us its old agency couldn't generate coverage without a news release.

    We, on the other hand, have built entire programs that we expect will be completely free of news releases. The core strategy is to establish our clients as authorities in a particular domain and then openly invite, and be terribly responsive to, media inquiries when they come in. I wrote a post recently about one of our better examples of this strategy: http://www.dangletech.com/inthemedia/howdoyouge.

    On a more sober note, the response you experienced is the inevitable outcome of an entrenched-but-broken agency model that sees the most labour-intensive task — actual outreach — relegated to the lowest-cost resource in the agency, a junior who probably wasn't even at the client briefing, didn't write the materials, built a contact list by punching some keywords into a database and knows nothing more about the client than what is in that day's news release.

    No wonder these people can't help you.

  6. smstextnews August 23, 2008 at 4:25 pm #

    Fmoran, I hear you loud and clear. Here, here.

  7. PatrickatJoshuaPR August 23, 2008 at 6:14 pm #

    @ Nick – surely the job of good PR people though is to be able to say something, to have a conversation, to engage an interested blogger when he's asking for comment. Even if it is to check that he understood your messages and the implications of them …

    @ fmoran – I couldn't agree more, with both of your points. Coverage is about so much more than news and the predominant agency model is certainly broken.

  8. CCintheCity August 26, 2008 at 10:20 am #

    This is absolutely right, and I'll add one more thing – if the reporter needs help locating a resource, help, even if there's no immediate benefit to your organization.

    Years ago, I was Communications Director at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, a big think tank in Washington, DC. If a reporter called in wanting an expert to comment on some breaking news story, and I didn't have anyone at my organization covering that issue, I didn't just say, oh sorry, we don't have anyone and hang up. I got him an expert, even if it meant getting someone from a competing think tank, or the State Department, or wherever.

    Nine times out of 10 I got him an expert within 15 minutes, and I didn't just pass on a name and number, I called and verified the expert was available before passing the contact on to the reporter.

    My entire staff followed that directive and, as a result, reporters came to us first when they needed an expert to quote – and usually we DID have someone on staff they could interview. In the three years I was there, we boosted press mentions by 450 percent, to more than 6000 a year.

    Every PR person should think of the following when starting a communications campaign: 1. What's my product? 2. Who's my audience? 3. What do I want them to do? and 4. Why should THEY want to do it?

    In this case, my product was expertise, and what I wanted reporters to do was call me first. Why should they want to do that? Because on a tight deadline, I'd get them an expert. Like Macy's sending shoppers to Gimbels in that old Christmas classic – we got more business than ever.

  9. smstextnews August 26, 2008 at 10:26 am #

    Very good practice, Candace!

    2008/8/26 Disqus <>

  10. Rob Preston October 27, 2008 at 8:21 am #

    Complete and utter nonsense. You obviously have absolutely no clue as to how PR works… and you're a journalist. Your employers should be worried… with you!

    I bet you're one of those up-tight, annoying, unable to communicate with other people type journalists with a chip on your shoulder the size of a banana… Let's face it, you're hardly at the top of your game. Mobile Indusry…. who?

    I'm adding you to my list of 'journalists not to contacted with a good scoop'.

    Cheers (a senior PR pro)…

  11. Rob Preston October 27, 2008 at 1:21 pm #

    Complete and utter nonsense. You obviously have absolutely no clue as to how PR works… and you're a journalist. Your employers should be worried… with you!

    I bet you're one of those up-tight, annoying, unable to communicate with other people type journalists with a chip on your shoulder the size of a banana… Let's face it, you're hardly at the top of your game. Mobile Indusry…. who?

    I'm adding you to my list of 'journalists not to contacted with a good scoop'.

    Cheers (a senior PR pro)…

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Stephen Davies - August 19, 2008

    Seen this post by Ewan – one of the most influential mobile industry bloggers out there http://tinyurl.com/6xya4y

  2. Stephen Davies - August 19, 2008

    Seen this post by Ewan – one of the most influential mobile industry bloggers out there http://tinyurl.com/6xya4y

  3. 23 August: PR top 5 | Strive Notes - August 23, 2008

    […] Here is something you don’t see every day.

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