The Truth about Pogue and PR Panels: It's a Two-Way Street and Editors Need to Be On It
Editor’s note: As you may know, The New York Times’ David Pogue is the latest journalist censured for speaking on PR “meet the media” panels (for which speakers are paid honorariums). The story broke last month here and elsewhere, but was recently resuscitated on LinkedIn and other online forums. So we asked editors working in the trenches what they really thought of the whole debate. Here’s one of the more insightful responses …
By Donald P. Mazzella, Editorial Director, Information Strategies, Inc.
Our role as editors is to separate the wheat from the chaff. Each week, a hundred or more pitches cross my desk. Some are a total waste of my time. Others are of marginal interest.
A few gems help make my newsletters cogent, useful and offer insights into future trends. For these last, I am always grateful.
Over the years, I have been able to educate some PR reps on what I need; how I need the information; and ways of getting my attention. The drawback however is that this approach is time-consuming. That’s why I take every opportunity to talk to larger audiences about my needs.
The more PR reps present the better.
In today’s world, reporters and editors have a symbiotic relationship with PR representatives. We need them almost as much as they need us in order to focus our attention and bring worthwhile information ultimately to our readers.
Thankfully, I am on many media lists that are bought by PR firms. This provides me with a steady stream of releases, some of which turn into great stories. But please, my newsletters cover small business, healthcare, and HR.
Like every editor, I would like to be spared releases focusing on local events, baby clothes, moose hunting and other topics not germane to my audience.
To reduce this clutter, editors should be communicating with PR people any way they can. On the other hand, having a better understanding of the editor’s needs, good PR reps can focus client offerings to fit them.
Forums and panels enable editors to reach a wider audience and to bridge this divide by constructing a useful dialogue in a cost effective manner.
Dialogue between editor and PR reps is important. However, it is happening less and less today. Most editors, it seems to me, are simply not available by phone these days. This fact of life makes it more difficult for PR reps for two reasons: lack of rapport and an inability to learn about a particular editor’s needs and preferences.
By the same token, PR reps are finding it easier to email than to call and pitch. Personal phone rejection is harder to take than an ignored email.
The results are arms-length relationships that, in my opinion, prevent some really good stories from percolating to the top of the pile.
For these reasons, I believe forums and panels are acceptable, if not desired, venues for giving editors and PR reps the opportunity to meet on neutral ground.
Talking never hurt anyone and certainly not in a forum and panel where both sides can benefit. I myself never take an honorarium when I am representing the company. If an editor can get a stipend for doing this, so much the better!
Donald P. Mazzella is a veteran journalist and editor who has held senior level editorial positions at McGraw Hill, Thomson and other news organizations. He is currently Editorial Director of Information Strategies, Inc. He publishes online newsletters in the small business, HR, healthcare sectors. He holds MBA, MA, BA degrees from NYU.