Detroit’s Top PR Man Tells Reporters ‘No More Voicemails Ever, Thanks’

We should all know that journalists really don’t like cold calls. We do know that, right?

OK. The truism apparently applies to PR people, too.

Today Jim Romensko reports on an unusual step taken by Bill Nowling, spokesperson for the city of Detroit’s emergency manager Kevyn Orr. When the city declared bankruptcy this summer, every journalist wanted to write about it—and at some point Nowling decided enough was enough.

He sent an email to reporters outlining a “new contact procedure”:

Going forward, all media requests (for information, for interviews, for directions) will be handled via e-mail…

…be as detailed as possible as to the issue about which you are calling or the specific questions you have.

VM just adds delay in responding, especially when most messages simply say “call me back.”

This is understandable for a guy who has “25 or more” voicemails waiting to be heard at any given time. Judging by the comments on the post, other PRs agree:

Keith Trivitt writes:

“this request is not all that uncommon and it really does save time — for both the PR pro and the reporter…I’d much rather get an email from a reporter with a detailed request for info that I can then research and respond back with that info”

Some writers were a little peeved that emails to the given address resulted in an automated response saying that they would be forwarded to Nowling, but again it makes sense for someone else to review the emails he received and determine which ones required a response. He also took to the post to defend the practice, writing:

“(1) There is no one here to answer my phone when I am unable to. (2) I hate VM. It’s impersonal, inefficient and it fills up two or three times a day. (3) As much as I would like to devote an hour a day to every reporter’s request or question, I cannot. So, getting me detailed information upfront speeds up my ability to get you the information you are looking for. (4) I want to talk to reporters, but I don’t want to waste their time or mine by not being prepared; if I can cut one just one extra return call for each call that comes by being prepared to answer the question when I call back, then I will be able to handle more media calls in a day. (5) Several reporters commented back on my email and thanked me for trying to come up with a way that respects their time and mine, so I can’t be too far afield.”

Sounds reasonable. Has anyone ever been in a scenario that demanded a move like this one?