Flacks, hacks, factions and a call for peace
Late last year a New York Times article sparked intense debate about media pitching and media databases. Journalists are fed up with PR spam (and rightly so) dished out in an assembly line to anyone with an email address. 'The Haggler’ spoke and was supported with a resounding chorus from media troops singing, “We’re not gonna take it, no we ain’t gonna take it anymore.” Twisted Sister would be proud.
The digital shot was fired across the bow and PR pros responded. While more Kerouac versus Ginsberg than Kanye West versus… well everyone, the latest battle in this seemingly never ending war was no less damaging. Many journalists took the Haggler’s advice and opted out of media databases. Yes, the very databases that are used responsibly by the majority of PR pros to research media outlets, contacts and their areas of interest. Each shot, whether fired from a cannon or gently lobbed into a comment box served to deepen a rift between factions that could be stronger if unified.
The thing about war is that there are no true winners. The victor may receive the spoils but not without casualties. It is time to cease fire and negotiate a treaty. Presidents Hoover and Truman overcame their distrust to work together, can PR pros and media do the same?
In truth, the media and PR pros both want to do right by their publics or audience. Our motives are not purely altruistic on either side for we need those publics to like us enough to shell out cold hard cash to keep us all employed. To do this we have to sustain their attention with information that matters. Too often the common goal is forgotten as we give in to ego to one-up the other side.
None of us are perfect. Stephen Glass was a journalist and Justine Sacco was a PR executive. It is unfair to paint an entire industry with broad strokes based on the unfortunate errors of a few. We are more alike than different and need each other to achieve our goals.
Media and PR fueled by coffee, wine and a voracious love of words can raise both industries to a higher standard if we could all just get along. Here are a few reasons why we should lay down our weapons and strive for peace.
- News and newsmakers. The media needs news and PR has newsmakers. Working from a position of mutual respect, we can align our goals and craft interesting angles and stories that will delight our shared audience.
- Viva la difference! Our differing job responsibilities can help us to challenge one another in a healthy way to up our game and broaden our perspective.
- Collaboration trumps contempt. We possess different information about a shared audience. Open dialogue and sharing information can help each of us to be more effective in our work.
- Teach me master. With a common set of standards we can teach the shiny newbies as well as reenergize the tired and unmotivated. Together we can call for respect, integrity and ethical behavior.
- I am not danger. The majority on both sides want to do their job and do it well. There are enough challenges in the day-to-day without inserting additional hurdles. PR pros are not your enemy and in fact they are consumers of your content. News alerts are their morning alarm and your stories are the backdrop of their day. They read, discuss and share what you write – exactly what you want from your publics.
I am a wide-eyed optimist but realize that not everyone will grab hands and sing Kumbaya. I do hope, however, that we can sheathe our swords and be more civil.