Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The (Absolute*) Last Word on PR Blacklisting …

… in which I cut off my own nose for your amusement.

I once got a call from a journo that started like this:

Me: Hello? This is Dan.


A little background may be in order. Per a prior agreement, the people I was representing had promised to make a certain significant announcement in one medium. The journo above [it should be obvious by now] represented a competing outlet. He had just had the misfortune of learning news about his beat on the way to work. On the radio.


[If you’re short on time, skip to Here’s the Deal below.]

It also may be helpful to understand that I was new on the job (see tail end of this entry) and it was about 7:45 in the morning (not the best time to take what my mother would call “that tone with me.”) So, after explaining that his editor would be furious – either a thinly veiled threat or a desperate cry for help – he began to insult the competing outlet. Its editors. Its audience. Why?! the journo demanded, had I made this terrible decision?

Did I mention I didn’t? Still, taking falls like this is part of media consultant’s job description. We continue …

[remember here that I didn’t make this call – I could have changed it, but by this point I’m glad I didn’t]

“NAME,” I said. You seem to be very upset.” [yeah, I’m a pretty passive-aggressive SOB early in the day] “It’s not that I didn’t want to give you the story, it’s just that a few weeks ago when I took this job we sent you a personnel release. You never ran it, so I figured you didn’t even know we were here.”

[earpiece on telephone becomes noticeably warmer]

“Is THAT what this is about?!”

Flash forward 45 minutes. The phone is ringing.

“Hello? This is Dan.”

He’s in mid sentence, reading headlines and leads from every story his outlet has published about my client in the past (as far as I let him get) four years. He didn’t write any of them, but that doesn’t seem to slow him down.

Finally, I interrupt:

Me: “I never accused you of ignoring [the client]. We had an agreement that was made before either you or I came along and I made a decision to honor that agreement. Now, what can I do to show good faith and start a good relationship with you?”

Journo: “Nothing. Nothing. The trust is gone. We have no relationship anymore.”

Me: “Did we have one before?”

Journo: “I have a lot of things to cover. I have [this] and I’m just getting to know [something else] and I don’t need this $#!7. This is a great way to introduce yourself. You have no trust here.”

Me: “Did you just call me to insult me because I have work to …”


Journo: “No, I want to get a quote from the CEO about this deal.”

Small victories.

S’anyway …

Flashback 15 Years

A publication important to my client called asking for confirmation that the company had just lost its biggest customer. This was a leading pub known for its ‘good news’ focus. Why had they singled us out? Again, I was new to the account so I can be (pretty) sure it wasn’t about me.

We tried to soften the blow, but the writer had sources. Whadaya gonna do?

Here was the client’s suggestion: “Let’s freeze ‘em out. They get nothing from us from now on.”

Obviously a strategic thinker.

Did we freeze them out? Get real.

Did we express our displeasure with their selective editorial policy? Absolutely, but it didn’t stop that story from running, nor should it have. Still, we made our point and the book remained receptive to our pitches throughout my tenure on the business.

Here’s the Deal

We need them. They need us. In a fragmented media environment we need each of them a lot less. In a multi-source wired environment they need any of us a little less.

But they still need us. And, yeah, we still need them. Is it so hard to understand that?

If any blogger, writer, editor, desk, pub … whatever … wants to turn a deaf ear to actual news to make a point, God bless ‘em. We’ll see them in the rear-view mirror along with the “let’s-freeze-‘em-out” guy.

There’s no room for them in the future.

We move on ...

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*I hope

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