Journalists have their say on the failings of PR people

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.

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5 Responses to Journalists have their say on the failings of PR people

  1. Meredith Carson says:

    As a PR person in the region, I’m all up for this debate and want to see action, especially given media grievance will only escalate as online media develops. A commitment to education and ongoing communication is needed between all three parties: media – pr – client, so we can move away from a yah boo sucks attitude and progress.

    For PRs, highly targeted media communications are increasingly essential and the window for what would be considered a timely response to media is narrowing (esp. given the rise of online social media). This presents a number of challenges for PRs, media and clients alike and it needs to be addressed rather urgently, I believe.

    Would you consider a round-table discussion to discuss the state of the industry and developments, with Arabic and English Media, PR and Client?

  2. I have to say that, there was a time when I would have vehemently argues this point that you are making Campaign, but to be honest nowadays it is a very disappointing reality that so much of what is called PR out there is abysmal.

    What this does do though is provide Agencies that respect the media, their dealdines, their challenges and moves to address these and make their lives easier, with enormous new business openings.

    It is also worth noting that whilst there are many media that are justified in their criticisms, like PR, there are a few bad appales out there and they represent – like PR – some pretty big names!

    Merdith is right CONSTRUCTIVE dialogue is useful as are journlists willing to work with PR Agencies and actually go in and do workshops for their teams which are often young, inexperienced and ever changing!!! Another sad but true fact for some of the bigger Agencies suffering in these hard economic times…

  3. Any professional, strategic PR Agency, needs to implement policies, and an environment in the workplace that encourages and applies some fundmental principles to be upheld by all members of that Agency at all times – Communication, responsiveness and knowledge. By knowledge I mean, fully understanding the Client, their business, the market and industry, have a viewpoint before they pick up the phone and speak to reporters or anyone outside the Agency walls. They also need to be avaliable to handle any media enquiries….these are the basics

    It is frustrating to experience, read about, etc…PR Agencies and PR professionals who do not follow this philosophy and implement it. They definitely do not make our jobs easier (the ones who conduct PR the intelligent way, the right way….). This is what differentiates those who have short-term thinking and long-term thinking and who really believe in adding value

  4. nickcampaignme says:

    Good points all. There are clearly concerns coming from both sides of the fence. One of our Twitter followers, Leila Amar, posted a link to this blog from Brian Solis (http://tinyurl.com/mcel49), offering a more positive slant on the evolution of PR. Also, see today’s post, in which Dave Robinson of MEPRA defends the reputation of the industry.

  5. M Jacob says:

    This page reeks of diplomacy. Nothing is going to happen to change the state of affairs.

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