AIN Blog: The care and feeding of the press

 - June 23, 2011, 6:17 AM

A pink golf shirt. I understand companies want to curry the attention of journalists, but at some stage you reach the point of diminishing returns.

I have more logo products than I can count. Dozens of pens, sticky-back note pads, model airplanes, bric-a-brac, a leather jacket, six sweaters and a baker’s dozen of golf shirts including one pink one. Pink might be fine for the latte-drinking set, but I think of myself as a modern Hemingway minus the suicidal tendencies. And it didn’t help that they said it complimented my eyes. They’re blue; the only way pink would compliment my eyes is after a hard night at some public relations party.

Speaking of parties, one company held a dinner party at Maxim’s, my favorite restaurant in Paris. There were 15 journalists and each consumed the gastronomic equivalent of a small country’s defense budget. Not all press outings are quite as pleasant.

I’ve been thrown twice by camels, but a camel just drops to its kneels and you fly over the top. On a different outing I learned an elephant figures out how far up you are then walks under a low hanging branch. I remember that company.

I understand everyone wants access to the media, but there are less expensive, not to mention safer, ways than public relations people think. So inexpensive that even the smallest company can get the attention it deserves. Here are random thoughts on the subject by someone who’s taken hits to the head from two camels and an elephant.

1. Have something to say that is of interest to my readers. I know your innovative design for a new screw head is earth shaking to you, but let’s face it, it’s just another screw.

2. Don’t be surprised by the sounds of silence when you send me an email saying, “We want you to run this at the top of your next column” or “We want a feature article on this in the next issue.” 

3. Return my call or email in a timely manner. Our lives are pegged to deadlines; you snooze, you lose. And no, we can’t stop the presses so you can have a pithy quote included. Here’s a shocker: companies that return our calls get coverage.

4. Stop sending press releases with embedded logos, pictures, icons, eye-winking happy faces and other annoying things that will migrate to our computer and be as resistant to unformatting as a flesh-eating jungle disease is to penicillin.

5. Hire someone who writes in a form of English found in the typical American home. Anyone who uses terms such as game-changer, paradigm shift, synergistic benefits, world class, win-win, cutting edge or global anything should have epoxy poured into his laptop keyboard; don’t get me started on military acronyms and jargon.

6. Don’t duck me when the proverbial duck droppings hit the fan. We have ways of finding out things you’re absolutely sure are hidden. You’d be shocked at what one of the folks driving the fuel truck will tell us or what a call to the parts department will yield when they’re asked an offhand question. We’re going to get the facts one way or the other and write up the story. Isn’t it better if you have input too?

The most important advice I can give is to establish a real relationship with people in the press. You don’t have to spend anything other than some of your time. Grab a cup of coffee or go to dinner with me when the opportunity arises and don’t talk business. Let’s find common interests so we can relate to one another and you learn you can trust me to be fair and honest. Some of my best friends in the industry are public relations people.

As for the swag, it’s cool, but to be honest most of the time I don’t remember who gave it to me. Well, except for the pink golf shirt. I’m never going to forget them.