Some of My Best Friends are PR Weasels

We’ve asked Robert Mullins, a veteran technology journalist who has written for high-profile publications like Silicon Valley Business Journal and Network World to be a guest contributor for the Attain Marketing blog. We think there’s real value for our readers to hear about PR trends and “in the trenches” stories from the media’s perspective. And, really, Lorraine did not ask for the shameless plug – but of course will take it (we are in the PR business). Enjoy!

I was happy to accept Lorraine Kauffman-Hall’s invitation to write for Attain Marketing’s blog about media relations. I’ve been a journalist for over 30 years including the last nine covering the technology industry in Silicon Valley. A lot’s changed, of course, for both PR and marketing firms and the media, but not the basic relationship.

Some journalists regard public relations people as a nuisance they have to suffer. One of my editors at the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal refused to take calls from PR people. “We can do that?” I asked facetiously. But seriously, I understand the symbiotic relationship at work: PR people want media attention for their clients and the reporter needs access to the right people to make a good story. It’s up to the reporter to determine whether the story pitched to him is worthy of coverage or not.

After working with a PR person for a while, I get to know what kind of stories I can expect them to pitch and they understand what kind of stories I’m looking for. Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way. In the late 1980s, I was the news director of the NPR station in my hometown of Milwaukee. A PR person for one of the big hospitals was in my office asking what kind of stories I’d be interested in. I explained to him that being public radio, we specialize in “issue pieces,” in-depth reporting on weighty subjects like health care for the poor, cancer treatments or health care costs. He nodded in agreement and then promptly pitched a story about the hospital’s program to give free Teddy bears to kids injured and in the emergency room! It went in one ear and out the other.

No Teddy bears pitches in Silicon Valley where I worked with Lorraine when she did PR for network security firm Certicom Corp. and I covered the network security beat for the Business Journal. Lorraine was a consummate PR professional, knowledgeable about the company and its products and able to provide access to key executives on stories that were legit.

Some of my best friends are PR people and some of them say some of their best friends are reporters. Some PR buddies will go so far as to pitch a story or pass on a news tip that isn’t even about one of their clients.

Don’t get me wrong. We reporters still have to sort through the spin, tests claims, voice skepticism and ask the tough questions. And we have to be straight with PR people and tell them the Teddy bear giveaway is very thoughtful, but not a story.

I look forward to writing more for Attain Marketing’s blog about media relations in the age of the Internet and social media, dos and don’ts for PR professionals and the changing media landscape.

Robert Mullins is a freelance technology writer in Silicon Valley.

1 reply
  1. Julia
    Julia says:

    yes, PR people are one who could take you to the right person for making good story but its more difficult to catch PR people. They make you run after them rather than running after you target.

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