Joan Stewart writes on her Publicity Hound's Blog about the hazards of letting clients edit their own press releases, often for the worst.
Some clients can be pretty controlling or at least think that having the final word is their prerogative. Why, then, have they hired you as their PR counsel? We're not so much talking about accuracy here, but what's most likely to connect with media people, or turn them off.
Stewart, a former newspaper editor herself, suggests clearing the air at the start of a client relationship and in writing.
"Your proposal or simply one-page letter of agreement should specify that you won't submit press releases or materials to the media that will embarrass you or the client, " she notes. "When I worked as an editor, I'd occasionally get a call from a PR person who would say, 'I know this press release is awful, but my client wants me to send it to you.'"
"They didn't want to anger the client. But they never thought twice about angering me [as an editor]. I'd make a mental note that that PR person was a pain in the neck and that the client wasn't worth covering."
PR people sometimes need to be educators of their clients, especially these days when media people are pressured with more duties than ever. You're hired, presumably, to help a client's interests play out in a world different from the client's own experience.
Clients need to understand that, and most surely do, though not all the time. A client's felt interests can become pretty pressing, too.
Counsel or client dialogue is called for at times like those, but if a client seems bent on bruising a press release, it's better to walk away and keep your professionalism intact.
"You’re better off," Stewart advises, "walking way from a project ... and leaving $200 on the table than damaging your good name and submitting something that you know reflects poorly on you, particularly if your name is on the press release or if you’re the key media contact."
You don't necessarily need to lose a client by saying no to an ineffective news release. Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail, and the client will recognize what's in his or her own best interest, after all. Sometimes, you may need to let the client learn on his or her own.