Email me your questions and I’ll see if I can get them answered.
If the last guy out the door in Rome was a public relations professional, he might have met any and all media queries with a calm, but curt, “Why don’t you jot your questions down on a scroll, and I’ll see if I can get them answered.”
Of course, now there’s email.
Not all PR people are created equally, but the decline of another empire, the nation’s fourth estate, seems to have changed aspects of the profession — and not necessarily for the better.
As journalism continues to be hammered by a sour economy and changing consumer habits, the exodus of skilled reporters seems to have altered how PR people respond to calls and emails from reporters. As the journalism profession withers, so has the respect some PR people hold for reporters.
When I started in journalism 15 years ago, PR people tended to respond immediately, or at least the same day. They were often helpful and friendly. While arguments, and even heated debates with a few cuss words flying, were not unheard of, the reporter-PR person relationship was typically positive and productive.
This is no longer generally the case. Many PR people today are incredibly suspicious — sometimes justifiably so — and it’s rare to get a PR person to answer a phone call, or to respond in any form in one, two or even three days. It’s not just PR people in the insurance industry. It’s across all industries, and it’s especially prevalent with PR people who work in the public sector.
For example, it’s a common PR practice nowadays to respond to a request from a reporter on deadline about a story via email something to the effect of: “Email me your questions and I’ll see if I can get them answered.”
PR person: “Email me your questions and I’ll see if I can get them answered.”
Reporter: “Ok. Can you answer my questions today?”
PR person: “I’m not sure I can get them answered today. I can’t make you any promises.”
I’ve heard similar complaints from a growing number of reporters.
In defense of the truly good PR people left, there are a few who set the standard as excellent communicators. They are a credit to the organizations whose message they strive to deliver, and they return calls immediately, with answers — even if it’s a “no comment.”
Those of you who are left, if you are out there and you’re reading, email me, or call me, with your questions and responses. I will definitely get them answered.