Thursday, July 5, 2012

4 Steps to Dealing With Problem Publicists

Hey Edsters,

As an editorial intern at the Regional Mag, fact-checking is one of my biggest tasks. A lot of this is careful reading and spell-checking, but another, more unpredictable factor also comes into play—the publicist. Fact-checking, requesting photos and writing stories all usually involve getting in touch with publicists, which can be more than a little frustrating at times. Publicists are usually juggling multiple accounts at one time, so they’re busy people. Sometimes, especially with publicists who represent celebrities and other important people, that workload translates into stressful conversations. Here are some tips for keeping your cool when coming up against particularly difficult PR reps.

Always call first. Find a phone number for the publicist if you can. That way they know you’re serious about getting your questions answered, and you can avoid an e-mail getting lost in an inbox that’s probably stuffed with similar requests.

Be patient. Sometimes it will take a publicist some time to get back to you, especially if you’ve sent them a lot of fact-checking questions to answer. This can be stressful sometimes, especially since a lot of what we do as interns depends on good communication with publicists. Before you get anxious that they haven’t responded, remember that they probably have a lot of things to take care of too. Set a deadline for when you need a response by, and most of the time they’ll be willing to meet it for you. After all, you are featuring their clients!

Be straightforward. When fact-checking, word your questions in a way that is really easy to understand. The clearer you are, the better they can answer your questions, and the more accurate the article will be. This also applies for when you’re writing; make sure you ask straightforward questions when you’re interviewing so you don’t end up writing something that didn’t actually happen. A little embellishment is probably okay, but don’t say that everyone dressed in blue if they didn’t, for example. 

And don’t get mad. With deadlines come stress, and with stress sometimes comes anger. I had an experience last week with a PR rep who responded that she “didn’t know how I could expect her to answer” the fact-checking questions I had sent her. Though I had sent her a polite and straightforward e-mail, she had responded with such a bad attitude that I wasn’t sure what to do. After trying to laugh it off with the other interns, I took a breath and sent the questions to her again, this time with a different wording. She eventually responded with the answer I needed, though she was clearly put-out that I had taken up even more of her time. Now this doesn’t happen too often, but I’ve found that the best way to handle it is to brush it aside and pretend that they’re not being rude. It’s the only way to move on and get your work done. So how did I respond to her comments? “Have a great day!” Sarcasm intended.

Have you ever had to deal with difficult people at work? How did you stay calm?

See ya next Thursday,
Ed’s Regional Intern

1 comment:

  1. I coach authors how to get on TV, and the issues you have with some publicists helps to sustain my belief that authors are much better off doing their own PR work, rather than hire a PR agency. Yes, you are not talking about authors here, but let me tell you, these issues exists with all types of PR firms. And to think of the money being paid to these PR firms and yet offer that level of service. OK, thanks, for that, Edward Smith.