Monday, April 13, 2009

A lame moment in PR

I've been a journalist for a long time, but today's lame PR moment was a first for me. When I arrived at work, I had both an email and a voicemail from a commercial real estate broker telling me to call him right away.
Cool, I thought. Maybe a news tip.
Ha! He was complaining about a story I wrote last week because one of the sources I quoted was his "biggest competitor."
Duh. What in the world is he talking about? Just like you readers, I had to follow this trail to find out what the problem was.
Here's the deal. I wrote about a large commercial lease deal, obtaining quotes from the developer and from the new tenant. I then got a quote from an outside source, someone who has been a trusted source for the past two years, about the current market leasing activity.
Keep in mind this story was all of 10 inches. A very quick hit.
The gentleman on the end of the phone line, however, said he should have been my third source since he actually brokered the deal. That's right. He wanted to tell me who I should quote, and since I neglected him, he wanted a printed retraction. Nevermind that the story was accurate. Just to add a little pathetic humor to the situation, he had the audacity to say, "This is the kind of news story we'd make copies of and send to clients and now I can't because you quoted my biggest competitor."
He actually thought it was my duty to aid and abet his promotional efforts.
Later I received an email from this company's long time PR consultant. She also questioned my choice of sources and wondered how she could explain this oversight to the higher ups.
I was completely befuddled. Since when are these kinds of issues my problem? And since when is someone who has been in the PR business for many years, so clueless about how a reporter puts together a story?
Ultimately she concluded that she should have been more involved in the process and that she should better educate her clients.
Fine with me. I hope she explains very pointedly that reporters aren't obligated to write about every person involved in a deal or to quote anybody specifically.
Besides, how the heck was I suppose to know that her client felt especially threatened by my outside source?
This could be fodder for a reality show/sitcom/ESP drama translated into a night time soap opera.
Desperate housewives, step aside and make way for desperate real estate brokers. Never before have so many tears been shed over martinis at the Capital Grill.


  1. He needs a lesson in proactive PR. It is a whole lot easier than reactive. And, you don't piss the reporters off quite as often. ;)

  2. If this person wanted to use this as an opportunity to open a door with a reporter, the right way to do it would be to observe that the reporter is interested in these kinds of stories and that he can provide insight and information as a source in the future ... and to demonstrate by delivering something useful now. Poor form to cry foul when no foul was committed.

  3. Thanks for sharing this story, Jan. I will share it down the line, to help illustrate some classic PR no-no's. I'm quite surprised, too, that someone in PR for a long time didn't take the time to get to know the reporters covering the Real Estate beat in town, since that's their industry. But they want to tell you how to do your job...

  4. Sometimes one just has to tell the client to get the knot out of his knickers. -Ted Faraone

  5. This is a great story. You should share it with David Avrin. I just reviewed his book "The 20 Best and Worst Questions Reporters Ask" which I think actually comes out today ( It's filled with stories about goofy questions, however the best stories are from CEOs and PR execs who give really bad answers.

  6. I honestly wonder how people like this get jobs in PR. I know that may sound brash, but if you don't know how journalists operate (and should operate), then you shouldn't be working with them.

  7. Wow, I feel for you Jan! I've seen PR people completely demolish their relationship with a reporter after pulling stunts like this.

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