Standards of PR in the Middle East have long been a gripe of journalists in the region. And even as the industry grows in size and influence, a new report confirms that the same old problems remain.
The Media Source / Insight Middle East Journalist Survey 2009 canvassed the opinions of 219 journalists working for Arabic and English-language newspapers, magazines and broadcasters in 13 countries.
When asked ‘How well do you believe regional PR agencies undersstand your needs as a journalist?’, over 40 per cent of English-language journalists said ‘poorly’ and over 15 per cent said ‘very poorly’.
The biggest irritant is the sending of irrelevant press releases, but respondents also complained of a failure to respect deadlines and an inability to provide further information when requested. In addition, around 85 per cent said PR agencies and their clients held unnecessary press conferences ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’.
The report quotes one journalist from a magazine in the UAE saying: “I rate a handful (not more than five) people, not companies, in the entire region. The rest are utterly useless. I have worked all over and outside the region.”
And when asked to suggest how PR agencies could improve, one respondent said: “Do your job – answer requests PROMPTLY for an interview or information, and if it isn’t going to happen tell me in a timely fashion so I can source information elsewhere.” Another added: “Do not harangue me when I publish a story with on-the-record comments from your client that you don’t approve of. They said it – and it isn’t my job to do what you want me to.”
Many of these complaints strike a chord with us at Campaign. Although there are notable exceptions who are prompt, helpful and understanding, there are many who, sadly, are not. Even in the past week, we have come up against great difficulty in getting hold of certain PR people (phones switched off, emails unanswered), refusal to supply information, requests not to print confirmed stories until after they have been announced in public, lack of understanding of deadlines and downright obstructiveness. In defence of PR practitioners, however, we are also aware that corporate and political culture in this region can put constraints on the release of information.
One thing for certain is that a better understanding of journalists’ needs would help both clients and agencies get their message across more successfully.