Is the follow-up phone call dead?

By Hugh Cadman, Specialist Content Creator

Put two or three journalists together in a waiting room and you can almost guarantee they will start slagging off public relations.

The press release was irrelevant. It was never a story. It was so riddled with errors that it could have been written by a professional footballer. Half of what I needed was missing. When I called back he sounded like an 11-year-old on horse tranquilisers.

Anybody who has worked on the newsdesk of a local paper in the UK will know the feeling when the email inbox fills up with the latest metal extraction news from Alaska or mergers and acquisitions in Austrian sanitary ware.

And it is all too often true that Tamara Double-Barrel from Crimson Whippet PR believes Plymouth is in the Midlands and that anyone who points it out is nerdy.

Last week’s budget will have triggered a suffocating avalanche of comment on pensions that will threaten to bury all before it. Even when the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee once more announces no change in the interest rate, every estate agent, financial advisor and building society in the land wants to share its thoughts with every website, magazine and newspaper with an inbox.

But however practised in their cynicism, many journalists will not admit that PR agencies can get it right. Last week I was with a bunch of reporters deriding PR agencies for following up their emails with a phone call to “see if you got my press release”. But the fact is that those phone calls often work.

If the caller is well briefed and to-the-point, that case study or new product information will get a second look. A release that would have floated around in the dirty puddle at the bottom of in the inbox before being flushed away, will be re-examined. Especially if there is the gentlest implication that you may be missing out on something your competitors will pick up.

For some journalists, stating that public relations agencies are more than useful – that they are a vital part of the media landscape – is akin to admitting you drown kittens.

Against the background of world-weariness, endorsements from seriously experienced journalists are to be treasured.