Tuesday, 10 November 2009

'How to'...deal with press officers.

This week's 'HOW TO' explains how journalists and press officers can work together in harmony, just the way it should be.

How do I talk to 'them'? Can I talk to them?

EMAIL. A phone call is obviously an excellent communication devise (if you make notes in your journalism notepad, preferably in short hand or record the conversation) however, emailing is a great way of keeping record of the contact you make. It is also the best evidence to produce if you need proof of contacting someone
Is there a lack in communication? Are you being fobbed off every time you call or email?

That sucks! But eventually something or someone has to give, and it certainly won't be you! Hold your ground. If you've acted fairly, politely and according to THE code of conduct then you are in the right!
It will of course be the reputation of that press officer or the person/company that they are working for that will be shattered by their unfavourable avoidance methods, so be tough, you can do it!

Is all of this a little bit overdramatic?

Yes, of course it is. But it has become apparant that not many know that press officers are meant to be there to assist the press. Yes, that's right. But if you are battling to get anywhere with your story and cannot get access to the people who can help you, then things do become dramatic because they are stopping you from doing your job.
The next thing you'll know, some P.O's wll get so over-protective about the information that you are attempting to obtain, University students will need permission to talk to their own lecturers!

So why do PO's get a little power crazy from time-to-time?

Who knows! But it is certainly a big waste of time on their behalf. The fact that we are trying to put together a balanced, two-sided story sometimes seems to surpass all thought. Try not to take it personally.

NUJ - is the press officer a member? Journalist's are supposed to help other journalists!
"What do I do!! The PO still hasn't got back to me!!...I'm doomed!!!"

Step one, get a grip!
Now...try the good old 'no denial denial'...in other words "no comment" them.
If you have:
- Given them a reasonable amount of time to get the information or organise a contact that you need.
- Informed them of your deadline.
- Acted professionally and politely.... yet they still refuse to help?
...then you can quite simply state that that the person or organisation in question refused to comment.

If you make contact with someone who you would like to interview and they insist on waiting for the PO's approvable inform them that:

"We're going to run this, we just want your side of the story"

NEVER say that someone was unavailable...if read between the lines this just means that you have not managed to get hold of them or have not actually bothered to.
This WILL come back to bite you...'they' can say "you didn't contact me"and even worse, there wil not be any evidence that you did, because you did not.

Unfortunately that's all for this weeks 'HOW TO', I do hope its been helpful and remember... NEVER GIVE UP, you CAN beat that irritating PO!

1 comment:

  1. I wish I looked at your post a lot earlier , thank you for writning it Maxie. I must admit that so far I have not experienced any overly negative moments with the press officers, the most annoying thing was probably press officers giving me the wrong contact numbers which can be quite confusing and timetaking to get through the right people. I tend to try to follow my phone conversations with emails as well(if possible), just to avoid, as you mentioned someone prenending that I haven't even bothered contacting them, just for my own evidence and back up. You are right this can be an issue and you gave a great tip there saying that "This WILL come back to bite you...'they' can say "you didn't contact me" and even worse, there wil not be any evidence that you did, because you did not." I think that there is nothing worse to not be able to prove the effords and attempts and come up in a negative light of being dishonest and lazy- as that is what we are not:o) , we just need to improve on our techniques of dealing with "press officers".
    Thanks a lot for your post again I will definitely take it on board.