When I joined my first job, my designation was Marketing Communication and Public Relations (PR). I had zilch experience in PR, except for the usual college projects on drafting Press Release etc. I got to write my first Press Release in the first week that I joined. It was a small press release about someone joining our company in some capacity. So I dutifully wrote it, got it approved etc. Now this company had a PR agency, but the PR manager wanted me to have experience of disseminating the Press Release the real way, i.e making a database of Journos and then mailing them individually after calling them up and then following the story as it broke in papers worldwide. During the week that I sent out the Press Releases I learnt some big lesson made some huge gaffes and became a minor celebrity in the PR department.
Case number one:
I call this all-supreme journo in a prominent newspaper and tell him of the Press Release. He grunts when he hears the subject of the release and tells me to mail to him. Next day I see that the news has not come in the paper. So I promptly call him. He tells me that it is not such an important news and that he will publish it on Friday. So I mull over that information and call him again and ask him if he could publish it on a Thursday as Friday is followed by the weekend and people who miss the news on Friday may miss it altogether. He is livid. He asks me my name, when I have joined and enquires if I know who he was etc. I told him that I knew nothing about him and why he is acting so difficult? I heard sputtering and choking noises on the other end as he tried to control the indignation of being spoken to with such irreverence. To his credit he calmed down and gave me an impromptu lesson on talking to senior journalist while trying to get your matter published etc. In my inexperience I missed the point totally. And so I again reiterated that I wanted the news on Thursday, to which he replied that he would speak to my boss the PR manager. I don’t know what transpired between them, but the news got published on a Thursday and my PR manager was suddenly smiling at me. I got a couple of calls from our PR agency people too, all of them chuckling that I had called a spade a spade, i.e called the senior journo ‘difficult’.
Case number two:
I call this very important Business magazine for the same press release. The person I am directed to is the top journo, a business and technology writer who thinks that people should read his bio-data and research his articles before even speaking to him. Not knowing him from Jack I called him and told him that I was mailing him the press release and please may I know when it would be published. There was pin drop silence. Then he quietly asked me if I knew who he was. I honestly told him ‘no’. He suggested I find out and call him again and then he slammed the phone down. I hate rude people and any act of rudeness only makes me bold. So I promptly called him again and told him that it was not nice of him to be so rude. He must have been taken aback but he said mildly “Oh really and what do you expect me to do? Take orders from a rookie PR like you who doesn’t even know how to talk to a senior journalist?” I told him that I was sorry if he felt I was ordering him around and that all I wanted was my press release published. He told me to mail it in and kept the phone down. The news got published and when he dropped by our office to interview my MD, I was called to meet him. When I walked into the conference room he exclaimed “So this is the kid who was talking so boldly to me?” He was a distinguished old man and we took and instant liking for each other and remain friends to this day. He is still Mr. High and Mighty and I am no more in PR.
After joining this new company, as is the usual practice I called up all the journos and informed them of the change and I happened to speak to these two gentlemen. They of course, took lot of pleasure in reminding me of my first Press Release and I was left very red faced at my naiveté.
Today when I see the new PR gals shivering at the thought of speaking to a senior journo, I realize that it was my total lack of awe, bought on my complete lack of knowledge of PR practices that pulled off that coup.
And my PR manager…she just played her cards ( a wet behind the ears PR gal) very well. Kudos Ms SS !!