Hands up if a journalist has named and shamed either you or your agency on Twitter at some point for not being the picture of perfection all of the time. If you haven’t got your hand up I would be very surprised. It has happened to the best of us at one time or another but I always think that the most important thing is how you respond.
Anyone who reads this blog will know that I am an active campaigner for trying to improve the relations between PR and journalists. Although I haven’t done one for a while I actually spent a couple of years interviewing prominent journalists about how PR professionals should communicate with them to get the best results in my Meet the Media series.
Unfortunately, just before Christmas I saw that one of the journalists I had interviewed in the past had posted a complaint on Twitter about a pitch received from one of my team. I was equally upset that we had been named and shamed as I was that we had prompted such a response. I know that despite what some PR people might think journalists don’t hate them, they are just exasperated by them. So what approach did we take?
Well as agency director I dropped the journalist a line personally to apologise for the way we had contacted him. I ran through our normal approach to journalist relations and offered an explanation as to why we hadn’t hit these high standards rather than an excuse.
Most importantly I tried to stress that overall responsibility for quality control falls on my shoulders and the fact that we had dropped a ball means that the buck stops with me. In particular I didn’t want the journalist to think badly of my exec who had been in touch, as ultimately they were doing what they thought they had been asked to do. I’m big enough and ugly enough to take some flack but I didn’t want someone to have their confidence hit by one simple error of judgement.
The result was fantastic. The journalist came back and thanked me for the reply and we subsequently arranged for four of the team to visit him and discuss his needs face to face and how best to get into his publication. It also gave the team the opportunity to better understand the pressures of what a top journalist is under and how the magazine is put together. The team then came back to the office and shared their findings with everyone and we even got a cheeky response from the journalist on Twitter afterwards to check that we had received his email. Not a bad result considering how it could have ended up if we had left it.
So what have I taken from this?
- Never leave a comment on social media. If someone has felt compelled enough to rant in public you should investigate and communicate with them where appropriate.
- Find out what has happened. Explain why it happen and offer a solution, not excuses.
- Back up what you say you are going to do and ensure that it happens.
Does anyone else have any similar examples of tips they would like to share?