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We'll Call You

  • October 16, 2000, 12:00 AM EDT
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Pick a day. Any day. From the moment I turn on my computer until the moment I turn it off, it bongs. I'm inundated, like every other editor in America, with e-releases about "innovative products and category leaders" I have to write about.

Then there's the endless invites to lunch with marketing directors and CEOs of new tech clients. Sorry, but I don't say yes when I can walk by any editor's desk at Adweek and see the same invitation flashing on his or her screen.

Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete.

Just when I think it's safe to go back to the keyboard, my phone rings. "Hi, it's xxx from xxx, calling to make sure you received our press release." Sure, I say, along with hundreds of others. Thanks, but no thanks.

Some people get it. Most don't. Which is what amazed me as I put together Adweek's special report this week on the public relations industry.

I participated in a roundtable discussion with some of the field's heavy hitters: Richard Edelman, Chris Komisarjevsky, Larry Weber, Madeline DeVries and Robert Druckenmiller. They talked about how PR has come of age. How it fits into the integrated marketing mix. What PR can do that traditional ad agencies can't. How client CEOs are so enthralled they've designated PR firms strategic partners.

Here's the real irony: While the top tier PR execs know what clients and media pros want, most of their underlings don't. That's a problem.

Trust me: I get generic calls. It's not enough to motivate me to dig deep into your client roster and find innovative things your company has done.

Don't e-mail and call me constantly and tell me your CEO is available for comment. Tell me why your CEO is worth interviewing. Tell me what makes your client special. I need a call that's clear, focused and relevant.

Instead, what I get are calls from companies that tell me they cover the healthcare industry. Or high tech. That's nice—but it doesn't help my story or your visibility. Journalists live on deadline. Time is a valuable commodity. Rule No. 1: Don't squander mine—or anyone else's.

Sometimes it feels like I spend half the day routing PR people to the appropriate reporter. Even worse, some call me when they're trying to place an ad for a client!

Please, read the masthead—it will answer many of your questions.

That's why many journalists shudder when they get a call from an inexperienced rep. The journalist ends up educating the PR person; to be effective, you need to flip that equation.

Yes, I know it's difficult for CEOs to chat with every journalist—but try. It's a recipe for success at some of the best ad agencies. Donny Deutsch, Jeff Goodby and Pat Fallon—to name a few—don't need PR help. They successfully branded themselves—and their shops.

PR executives need to follow suit. They need to do for themselves and their shops what they do every day for their clients.

As Komisarjevsky noted in our roundtable discussion, "The brand steward should be the CEO of the client company." He's right. Someone should tell the PR reps.