Anyway, so maybe if I hadn't been such a little enthu cutlet, the fate of my career path would have been completely different. They took one look at it--and my ill-informed views on the news page of
|Always a boxing match
That was 10 years ago. PR and journalism lived in a happy ecosystem where you understood that both kind of needed each other, but you also respected that the other person had to do their job.
I did a story for a popular longform magazine on Kingdom Of Dreams in Gurgaon. (ETA: This post originally had a link to the story, but I wanted to make clear here that I operate on my own, and the voice here is also all me, all the time, no organisation, plus I don't want to get anyone into trouble. However, if you Google my name + Kingdom of Dreams, the story will pop up, if you're interested.) It began as just a "what IS the Kingdom of Dreams?" story and then as I was doing my research, I began to see a lot of news stories online about their financials, which I thought made an interesting path for the story to take. With the help of the editor, I wrote what can be summed up as: kitschy and OTT, who is the Kingdom Of Dreams' audience and are they actually losing money? We had to speak to the PR person in order to get some quotes from the director and for the photographer to take pictures. I even sent them a list of questions I was planning to ask--including about their financials--and they patched me through to the director. He declined to comment on the rent issue, I put that into the story and then sent it off and since this was three or four months ago, promptly forgot all about it till yesterday. Somewhere in this long copy, I also mentioned that Kingdom of Dreams came to my attention rather frequently because of the "bombardment of press releases" they sent.
My phone rang and in my ear, a cross female voice, "You made a typo in the director's name!" she said. "Oh sorry," said I, "But you need to get in touch with the editor as I can't do a retraction, I don't work there." I made to hang up but then she went on: "LISTEN, PR PEOPLE ARE ONLY DOING THEIR JOB, YOU CAN'T SAY THEY "BOMBARD" YOU WITH PRESS RELEASES." I was getting cross now, and told her she couldn't pick on my language choices. "YES BUT YOU CAN'T USE THE WORD BOMBARD!" "Well, then maybe I should stop getting press releases from you every five minutes," I snapped back. "We'll remove you from our mailing list," she said and I said, "FINE" and I thought that was the end of that.
Until, new rant: "YOU CAN'T QUOTE OLD NEWS REPORTS IN A LIFESTYLE MAGAZINE, YOU HAVE NO BUSINESS QUOTING NEWS REPORTS." I told her quite shortly that it wasn't up to her to define what [REDACTED] was (for the record: one of the finest long form magazines in the country with excellent writing) and then she slammed the phone down.
All this PR has done is now alienate a member of the media to such an extent that not only will I not be writing about them in the future, I will actively encourage my friends not to go there. Which may seem like not much, considering I'm only little ol' me, someone she thought insignificant enough to shout at on the phone, but hey, every little thing counts. Which is why business-savvy brands like Flipkart and even Airtel respond to you instantly when you tweet with a complaint. The power is with the social media masses. Which doesn't seem like a great way to do your job, if your job--as I understand it--is to be a liasion between your client and the press.
What I can't understand is when this became okay--to call a journalist and yell at them if you don't like something. Dude, as long as your thing is in the public space, I am free to yell from the rooftops that I hate it. Another PR called to tell me I couldn't "write a bad review" about her client's place. I told her I went anonymously and paid for my meal, but she was mid-rant and also hung up. This is despicable, rude behaviour, and completely unprofessional. If I were lying--for example, if I were saying that the owners were murderers or whatever--then it becomes a legal grey area, slander or something, but you cannot by any stretch, ask a journalist to remove/change a story when the facts are true.
It's not just the PR--although they are the worst culprits--there was this guy I interviewed back in January who has some tailoring service or something. Cute little story, I spoke to him for like half an hour with interview questions, he answered and I wrote it up. Nothing fudged, nothing bad--just straight up "this is what happened". He harangued me for days after that asking me to take it down because "he didn't know I was going to publish it". Yes, I normally call people at 9.30 pm and ask them a list of detailed questions about their job because I want to chat. Finally, fed up of his shouting, I took it down, and honestly, I will never write about it again (not even here to bitch about him, because that brand no longer gets even a teeny tiny bit of publicity from me.)
Marketing and Public Relations people! THIS. IS. NOT. OKAY. You are not only NOT doing your job, you're doing the OPPOSITE of your job. This is not public "relations", it's public "break ups". Also, pissed off or not, it's extremely rude to shout at anyone, even if you perceive them to be lower on the food chain than yourselves.
What are other very un-media-savvy brands? Have you had a crap experience? Add your thoughts in the comments, it would be nice to see it's not just me getting the short end of the stick!