Grant’s been covering the CE business for 10 years. Before that, he edited several publications in the allied health market and wrote about fly fishing for various outdoor sports publications. His favorite movies are Excalibur and The Polar Express; his favorite beers are Guinness, Pocono Pale Ale and Yuengling Black & Tan. He wears a size 10.5 shoe. His favorite fly is the Parachute Adams. He sucks at Rock Band (Don’t we all, though? Even the ones who are good at it?). He tried for many CESes to convince me to join him for dinner at Star Trek: The Experience, and was never successful in doing so, although I greatly admired his genuine enthusiasm about the place. As far as I know, he occasionally sleeps.
Given all that is on Grant’s gigantic plate, we’re honored he took some time out to talk to us about PR. Heck, he’s even participated in a CEA webcast on the subject, so he kinda beat me to the punch. And just in case you missed it last week, he also sent me a quite illuminating survey of 20 anonymous CE tech journalists and their attitudes about PR, which makes for quite tasty reading.
Word association: I say “PR.” What word immediately comes to mind?
Zeppelin. Wait, I need more time for this one.
Fair enough. I dare say that perhaps we PR professionals are much too complex and fascinating creatures to be summed up in one word. OK, that’s all of the phony self-aggrandizement you’ll get out of me today. Back to serious questioning: What are your general feelings about PR people these days? Are they getting it right? Do they need to make adjustments?
Some are great at their jobs. Some aren’t. I appreciate the PR folk who act like a resource and try to help you do your job. I can’t stand the ones who act like they’re doing you a favor by calling you back, getting you an image or connecting you with their clients. The pushy ones really bother me, especially when they assume their client is entitled to extra coverage for one reason or another. At the same time, I consider several PR people friends and understand the pressure they’re under. Vendors swap PR companies like STDs. It can be tough to keep your clients, especially now when budgets are limited.
Hey now! We practice “safe PR” over here at Caster! But I get your point and I agree. While we’re on the “viral” tip (thanks for the setup), let’s talk about social networking. 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? What’s your take on social media and how it relates to your job?
Social media is great for fake socializing, but really poor for distributing accurate, vetted information. I enjoy participating in some social media circles, though I don’t feel they’re dependable (at least by themselves) for getting out news. The press is a filter-hopefully, a knowledgeable filter-that helps readers and viewers understand news or topics in a responsible context. Many of the new social media outlets are dry stream beds when it comes to responsibility. I’m disappointed at how much people have come to accept jokes, innuendo and snark in place of actual reporting and analysis. From a PR standpoint: Yes, give me an actual phone call. Leave off the Twitter for me, unless you’re just telling me what the special is at the diner across the street.
I’d only do so if the special involved scrapple. Mmm, scrapple. OK, trade shows: In the run-up to these, 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?
Well first, don’t send me the same email 30 times. If I’ve ignored it this long, take the hint. At the same time, one follow-up phone call can mean a lot. Sometimes things get lost in spam filters. Sometimes I forget to write a number down. For this CES, for example, find out what angles I’m following and let me know if your clients fit in. Don’t try to pile me with all your clients at once if they don’t make sense for my coverage areas. PR reps need to understand that I’m at the show to produce content valuable to my readers, not to fill up your clients’ hit list.
Once at the show, make sure appropriate people are available to answer my questions. Nothing bothers me more than showing up for a scheduled meeting and then finding out that the only person available to talk is the PR agency rep.
With your websites and e-newsletters, do you feel like you have a never-ending news hole to fill?
Sure. Sometimes that’s great. Sometimes not. I’m sure Ben Franklin sometimes got stressed out by printing a weekly broadside. As long as we stay relevant and readers appreciate us, we’ll keep coming up with new ways to feed the hole.
How many press releases are too many press releases from one company?
Somewhere between two and 500. If the news is worth it, then get it to me. Still, I see a lot of trivial press releases from companies that have nothing to say.
Do you have an all-time PR-related horror story?
Several. Can we talk about this over a beer?
Of course. Especially if “several” also applies to the beer. OK, last question: Is there anything PR people can do to directly help your magazine and your website succeed?
Practical stuff. Maintain a Web site with all your company (or client) press releases and hi-res images. Don’t make the site password-protected, and don’t make it hard to find. At press conferences, put everything on flash drives (not CDs), and make sure the drive has the company name on it. If you company can’t exhibit onsite at a trade show, arrange to meet me at the convention center, at my hotel for breakfast, at our booth. The off-site meetings are huge time-sucks and I rarely do them.
Well, this definitely did not suck. Thanks again for your insight and for your time, Grant!
Stay tuned for our next edition of Journalists on PR, coming soon…
Posted by Joe Paone