And then there is the issue that great philosophers have debated through the ages. After they wrestled with “who am I,” “the meaning of life,” and “the chicken or the egg”, they dared to tackle the most baffling question of all:
What the hell is a PR person’s role anyway?
- Company Gal? Some great thinkers said with great certainty that the media relations representative should be the organization’s unflagging advocate, the Company Gal or Guy!
- Reporter’s Pet? Others argued with equal vim and vigor that media relations people should be the reporter’s advocate and assistant, the Reporters’ Pet!
This great thinker’s answer? The true role of the PR flack is…drum roll please…to marry the organization’s needs with reporters’ needs.
I know, I know. Balance is boooooring.
But the problem with the pure Company Gal model is that no organization can effectively tell its story if it doesn’t understand and accommodate reporters’ legitimate needs.
To do their job, reporters need prompt, brief, relevant, entertaining, interesting and truthful information. If you don’t pay attention to these reporters’ needs, the organization’s story will go untold, undertold or incorrectly told. So, the flack does often need to fight for reporters’ requests within the organization, and that is why employers often wonder whose side we are on.
The problem with the pure Reporter’s Pet model is that organizations can’t effectively tell their story if their legitimate organizational needs aren’t met. If accommodating reporters’ need for speed and spice results in responses that are false, incomplete, unsupportable, unethical, inane or illegal, the organization can encounter problems a helluva lot more damaging than a bad news story. So, sometimes the flack does need to slow things down, limit access, build internal consensus and triple check before they respond, and that’s why reporters love to hate us.
Media relations people have to strike a balance between pissing off people who keep their families fed and pissing off people who ultimately win most arguments because they buy ink by the barrel. In the process, the good ones end up making both sides merely frustrated rather than furious.
So, if I have to choose between a PR guy who is loved in his employers’ boardroom versus one who is loved in newsrooms, I don’t want either. Belovedness is a red flag in the media relations world. To do their job right, media relations people need to get love from their mommies, not reporters or employers. – Loveland