Today marks the inaugural edition of a new CasterBlog feature called Journalists on PR. Caster’s Joe Paone will interview various journalists to gauge their feelings on the state of the public relations industry, as well as glean useful and constructive information that PR professionals can use to build more mutually fruitful relationships with journalists and, by extension, better represent and serve their clients. A trade journalist for 16 years before he arrived at Caster in 2007, Joe has a unique perspective on the eternal tensions between the two fields.
We’re honored to interview Jeremy Glowacki for our first installment of Journalists on PR. Jeremy is a veteran magazine editor, having worked for numerous publications over his 15-year career. In January 2000, he helped create and launch Residential Systems, a business and technology magazine for the custom audio/video installation industry. He remains day-to-day editor of that title and editorial director of Systems Contractor News, Rental & Staging, and Residential Systems International and their websites, which are all owned by New York City-based NewBay Media LLC. He holds a bachelor of arts degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and currently resides in Carmel, Indiana, with his wife Karen, two young daughters and beagle/bassett mix.
And awaaaaayyyy we go, after the jump…
OK, word association: I say “PR.” What word immediately comes to mind?
What are your general feelings about PR people these days? Are they getting it right? Do they need to make adjustments?
PR people are mostly very helpful when it comes to tracking down information for articles, even if that means using their websites for that info. I think they mostly get it right, but some are much better at pitching appropriate articles than others, and some are much better press release writers than others.
A lot of it comes down to a PR style versus magazine style of writing, but some press releases are just plain bad. In the past, our job as print-publication editors was to use press releases as background. Now, in the age of fast web posting, we find ourselves cleaning up press releases to make them readable for immediate viewing, and this can be a frustrating exercise when the writing is especially poor.
My biggest complaint about some PR people, present company excluded, is when I feel like I’m doing them a favor to keep them from losing a client. Some reps reek of desperation, and it’s not fun to be on the other side of that. This is especially true when that PR person loses the account anyway and suddenly “those guys are bums…” is the attitude about the past client that I just went out of my way to interview.
Like journalists, PR professionals are caught up in the Web 2.0 debate. Some in the PR world say the traditional press release is dead and that social media PR is the way to go. Others border on the reactionary, viewing all of the social media stuff as unproductive and saying that PR people should in fact get old-school and pick up the phone more. Everyone else seems to be in the middle, trying to figure out the right balance. How do you prefer to interact with PR people, and how do you prefer to receive press releases and other communications? Are your preferences evolving? And what’s your take on social media?
I’m not there on social media as it relates to my work flow, at all. Right now it’s just a personal thing, getting in touch with old friends and the like. I still prefer to receive press releases via email, but actually think that direct-download-style hyperlinks for Word docs and photos are the smartest distribution method (with an embedded press release so I can quickly ascertain appropriateness for my audience). Having the resources on the agency’s website is excellent backup. A call around trade show time can be helpful (though I tend to avoid the big agencies when they show up on caller ID).
Picking up on trade shows: Obviously, in the run-up to the show, you’re getting pitched by dozens of PR people, all of whom want to get you to their clients’ booths for dedicated face time. What’s the best, most appropriate way to get your attention and to schedule an appointment? And, as for once you’re at the show itself, can you share any preferences or annoyances you have about your interactions with PR people?
I like an email with a clear reason stated for why I should stop by. I hate being lumped into a mass email. If I don’t respond in a couple days, a follow-up call is acceptable.
When I’m at the show, I will try my darndest to get there on time. Once in a while, I miss an appointment and most PR people are super cool about it. Sometimes, however, one will act like I’m their child and did something wrong. That’s a no-no.
At a booth, I absolutely don’t mind an educated PR person giving me the tour, but, of course, the tech person for the client is preferred. I don’t like article pitches during tours, however. It’s not the right time and place. There’s just too much going through your head at a show for that sort of thinking.
This has been awesome so far. Thanks for being so thoughtful and candid. Is this is a bit cathartic for you? Has anyone ever asked you questions like this?
It’s fun. I’ve shared stuff like this with fellow members of the press at events.
How many press releases are too many press releases from one company?
I don’t have hard rules about too many press releases. It’s just tough when they all hit at the same time.
Do you have an all-time PR-related horror story?
Like most painful memories, I’ve buried my horror stories deep. The most humiliating moment in my career was being called to the floor by a big-time advertiser for lack of product coverage for them. I mostly sat quietly in their offices while my sales rep did the apologizing, because it was such an awkward position to be in (division of church and state and all). However, the upshot was that the in-house PR person for that company had been feeding me application stories and de-emphasizing products. His boss only cared about products, as it turned out.
With the website, do you feel like you have a never-ending news hole to fill?
Yes, it does feel that way, and on some days it’s a curse. However, on the days when we’re between issues of the print magazine, I no longer have those days when I question my career choice because I’m bored. And in these difficult economic times, it’s great having a content outlet even when print pages might be down.
Is there anything PR people can do to directly help your magazine and your website succeed?
Mostly, PR folks are doing a great job as long as they put thought into their pitches and respect what we do for them instead of asking for MORE, MORE, MORE. Most are great. Only a few are still greedy and sloppy.
Any other thoughts on PR that we haven’t addressed?
PR folks are much more valuable than some clients (or former clients) might give them credit for. I’m always amused when a small company complains about lack of coverage when they don’t have a PR person-nothing more than in-house marketing-saying, “You should be checking our website for news.” Um, yeah, I’ll get right on that. You’re at the top of my mind every day.
Ha, ain’t that the truth! Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview, Jeremy! I think it will be highly educational and informative, not just for our own staff but for the other PR pros who read our blog.
Stay tuned for our next edition of Journalists on PR, coming soon…
Posted by Joe Paone