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Fly Swatted: Annoying Habits Flacks Could Stand to Change
By: Mike Bush
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For years, we PR folks have always tried to listen in, fly-on-the-wall style, to the interviews our clients are having with various analysts and media members. But over the past month, a few journalists I have a ton of respect for have asked for one-on-one meetings with clients, leaving this flack feeling like he just met the business end of an 18-wheeler’s windshield (much like the bug who kicks off Men in Black).

While I haven’t reached out to the reporters to ask “Why the flack hate?” (the stories I’m hoping for haven’t run yet, and I’m treading cautiously), I have three suspicions as to why reporters are fed up with the typical routine.
  1. Annoying Follow-up. Whether or not we want to admit it, every PR person has, at some point, dropped a note saying “Hey, are you planning to turn the story?” I have to imagine it’s the most annoying note to receive. Ever.
  2. Annoying Requests for Corrections. Sometimes our clients misspeak (even the ones we’ve taken through extensive media training). I’m guessing lots of us have asked for some sort of correction that really didn’t make all that much of a difference. A note to reporters on this one: Generally speaking, most quality PR people are OK with these things. The requests we send are often client driven, despite our best efforts to talk our client off the ledge. If you spelled the company and spokesperson’s names correctly, we’re generally OK.
  3. The Interruptions. I know that I’ve personally jumped into calls to stop a client from saying something that is either going to ruin a story or, perhaps more importantly, spill the beans on something else. While briefing documents from just about every firm might say “There’s no such thing as ‘off the record' and 'please don’t mention your clients unless you’re comfortable with them seeing you talking about them in print,' these things happen. Yes, you could argue that there are reporters out there who aim to make these things happen more often, but I’m going to ignore this group right now. My guess is that this bullet, The Interruptions, is most likely the reason reporters are starting to push for PR-less interviews.
So let’s agree as PR folks to stop the annoying habits (even if there will always be a need for the occasional interruption). However, in so doing, we’d remind reporters of a couple things here too.
  1. If we sit in on the call and there are follow-up items (an analyst report, a quote from a client, etc.), it’s usually the PR person who tracks it down. Mr./Ms. Journalist, help me help you.
  2. Technical difficulties suck. If a conference bridge I set up has a crummy connection and I don’t know it, I can’t fix it.
  3. Finally, please know this: If I jump in on an interview to stop something from being said, there is an excellent chance that you’ll be the first reporter I contact when the item becomes news.
Can we all maybe decide that the fly-on-the-wall thing is OK as long as PR people promise to drop some of our most annoying habits? Flacks' Honor?

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About the Author
Mike Bush is a PR and Marketing freelancer with more than a dozen years of experience in the field. Find him on and connect Twitter @mikebush or at www.mikebush.nyc. 
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