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  • Viva Sarah Press

How to annoy a journalist (or, when PR goes wrong)

The differences between journalism and public relations have been written about ad nauseam. Yet, it seems the differences between these two fields may be in need of a refresh. I recently published an article on crowdfunding. The piece was an all-encompassing report, looking at venture capital, crowdfunding, bootstrapping and angel investments – and where each fits in the entrepreneurial landscape. I quoted eight people in the report. Seven thought the article did its job: covered the funding dilemma in the high-tech arena. Some even thanked me for using their comments and mentioning their companies (knowing I could easily have asked others in the local high-tech scene for their opinions).

A PR image shaper, speaking on behalf of the eighth person, was upset.

He sent me mixed messages on the day of publication: first, thanking me for the “good article” and then noting his surprise that the article was not a wonderful, positive feature on the company he was representing but instead an example in a bigger piece.

That’s fair. Public relations people put the most positive spin on the place or product they are representing. That’s their job.

The journalist, on the other hand, is not their lackey. The journalist does not have to publish the same positive spin they’ve sent in a press release.

My job is to portray the real picture. This was not the story he wanted. He was miffed.

That’s okay, too. I can’t please everyone.

But there's a stinger. The PR guy and I had a written tête-à-tête about his expectations vs. the topic I wrote about. Again, this was not a puff piece about his product; it was an article about a financing trend. He ended our conversation amiably.

And then he wrote a backstabbing email to the editor to rail about the “unfairness” of the article: that it “presented a different message” to what he was after.

So, for his sake, a refresher on PR vs. journalism: PR is about presenting the best possible angle ever while journalism is about presenting the most real story, whether flattering or not.

One other note: While PR people and journalists work hand in hand – and have a historical love-hate relationship – when the former chooses to backstab the latter because he didn’t get exactly what he wants, the rapport isn’t going to get better.

This list -- 30+ WAYS TO PISS OFF REPORTERS -- is hilarious and a must-read for all journalists and PR people out there.

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