Wednesday, November 26

Breaking Relationships: When PR Is To Blame


While the definitions vary, public relations is basically the practice of managing information between an organization and its publics. If you think like me, it is public relations' job to serve both the organization and the public interest, which is intended to facilitate better relations with various publics, including but not limited to the media. But it's not always so.

Accuracy Matters

When Nevada District Judge Donald Mosley issued a statement through a public relations firm about his son's involvement in a fatal crash, the statement said, "My heart goes out to the William's family." The problem was that no one named William was involved. The public relations firm got the name wrong. But even more telling, Mosley didn't have a hand in the statement.

Relationships Matter

When I was arranging interviews for a business article I was working on, one of the public relations professionals cc'ed all of our e-mail correspondence to the editor of the publication. When I asked why she would do that, her answer was "I have a relationship with them. You are working for them aren't you?" Yes, but I have relationships with people too, including her boss. I sometimes string for national publications too.

Client Relations Matter

When I was working on another story, the public relations professional referred me to the head of the department. But unfortunately, the head of the department was only interested in dissuading me from interviewing them. The entire process took one week to set up and one minute to shoot down because the public relations professional didn't educate the client as to why they wanted to be part of the story.

Efficiency Matters

I received a news release yesterday for inclusion in a publication I owned and managed, um, five years ago. Not surprisingly, the release didn't even consider the publication's readership, which was hospitality executives and professional concierge. They wasted their client's money, and I briefly considered running the release as a bad communication example.

Deadlines Matter

Another public relations professional recently took two days to respond to me, which was forgivable because he was on vacation (although I still don't understand why his office referred me to him while he was on vacation). He was very prompt in setting up the interviews with the appropriate people, er, one of whom was on vacation.

All of these gaffes will be included in my Writing For Public Relations class at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas next spring. The students will chuckle about them, and I will too. But for all the good humor, there is one lesson — when public relations professionals do not serve both the organization and the public interest, they generally aren't serving either one.

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