Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dominant Narrative and Public Relations

There are a number of services to hook up journos who have a question with PR folks who have an answer. Or a client.

The better ones (I recommend Peter Shankman’s HARO, which in addition to being useful and timely is also FREE) vet pitches and pitchers because we all KNOW there are some reellystoopid PR folks out there who will try to sell their story no matter what the query.

Two counterpoints to that one-sided narrative:

1. If you’re a journo and your query has a POV, don’t jump up on your J-school soapbox when you get responses that dispute your obvious thesis. For example, let’s say you post a query that says something like “I’m looking for patients with brain tumors caused by excessive cell phone use.” Now – in this purely hypothetical situation – we’ll stipulate that you get replies telling you that there’s no actual … what’s the word? … oh, yeah … SCIENCE supporting the basis of your story. You might be tempted to complain that you’re getting off-topic responses. My advice as your unpaid PR counsel in this case is simple: Seriously, STFU.

2. Because we all know how reelystoopid flaks can be, there’s even an entire Web site set up to enshrine our stoopidness. Thanks, again, guys. When does journalism reciprocate? Where is their shrine to their own professional folly? I’ll leave the whole Iraq thing out of this and nod to the CJR’s collections of stuff that actually makes it into print, but what about the dumb questions, reminders of their deadlines we can’t control and general obnoxiousness when CERTAIN of them don’t get their way?

Consider this from a recent query many of you probably noticed:

"I've got an editor asking for a list of common kitchen foods that can give
you food poisoning or make you sick if you eat them when they've spoiled."

Umm … other than honey that would be everything we call, ya’ know, food.

"These are foods that you would store in the refrigerator, freezer and pantry cabinets."

But the stuff I just leave on the counter or in the passenger seat of the car is cool, right?

"I've got a couple of easy ones already, like milk, eggs and chicken, but I'm
wondering if there are any other food products in the fridge or a pantry that,
when past their prime, can make you sick?"

No, that's pretty much it. Pork is always good. And mayonnaise. Seriously, a ground pork and mayonnaise salad is good all day long. Perfect for your family picnic, in fact. Have at.

"Besides a foul odor, what would tip you off that a food has spoiled?"
Well, there is the whole DYING thing. If you decide to try pork tartare, feed it to your friends first. If they don’t call you (or answer their phones) chances are you’re fine.

"Conversely, ... "

"... I would like to write a sidebar on food that has seemingly spoiled, like mold on
cheese, but which is still safe to eat (I believe you can just cut the moldy
part off)."
That works with pork as well.

Wha’d’ya’ got? Don’t use names. We all have bad days.

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