9 maddening things that bring PR pros to tears

From the perception that you’re just a glorified event planner to clients’ unmarked changes to your scrupulously crafted copy, these nettles will make even seasoned practitioners cry.

Cry — verb: to shed tears, especially as an expression of distress or pain.

Public relations is a great profession. There’s variety, excitement and, let’s not forget, a chance to have a profound impact on an organization’s image and visibility.

Then again, as with any career, there are days that are less than fabulous. When those moments arise, we want to cry.

Here are nine things that can make a PR pro want to break out the tissues:

1. Being called a spinmaster. Sure, we know there are those in PR who give the rest of us a bad name by shilling for their client shamelessly; even when they know it isn’t a good fit for the publication, they mercilessly hound reporters. Still, many PR pros are skilled at understanding how to bring stories of value to journalists. So, please don’t call us spinmasters; it hurts our feelings.

2. Nitpicky changes to press releases and other documents. OK, the client feels that word really needs to be in there—we get it—but instead of insisting on unnecessary changes that don’t enhance the message, maybe clients should trust us to do our job. Many of us have journalism or communications degrees—we know how to write—and we know reporters cry, too, when they see those buzzwords that the clients insist on throwing in there.

3. “Oh, and we’d like this to go viral.” I’m not sure whether most clients even know what that really means, so ask them, “What do you mean when you say go viral?” Sometimes by getting to the bottom of what they’re thinking, you can get a better idea of what they’re after. In the meantime, go ahead—cry it out.

4. The perception that all we do is plan parties. Yes, there are PR pros who specialize in event planning. Many of us have experience with events, but we do a whole lot more than just organize parties. We plan, strategize, write, counsel, communicate and measure results, and it makes us sad when folks believe otherwise.

5. Clients who expect reporters to do their bidding. This one will drive even the sanest PR pro over the edge. This is not advertising, there’s no opportunity to review a story before it’s published, and journalists won’t publish a press release verbatim.

6. Expectations that are too high. Some clients, even those who’ve done little or no PR, truly believe they’ll start out in the big leagues. They think they’ll be in The Wall Street Journal tomorrow. This can make us weep. It’s time for a reality check; everyone has to start somewhere.

7. Edits that are made—but not marked. Sure, we’ll just telepathically figure out where the client made those changes. Hopefully, we’ll also catch the typos the client accidentally inserted in their quest to improve our carefully crafted piece.

8. No competition. Some clients will tell you—with a straight face—that they have no competitors. Not only is this a red flag, but it will definitely make a PR pro head straight for the Kleenex-and the aspirin. If you tell a reporter you have no competitors, a good PR pro knows that he or she will find some; it’s better to be prepared.

9. Promising information that then can’t be provided. When clients say they can provide something, they should be ready to bring it. This includes visuals, customer references, data to back up their claims-and the list goes on.

Dry your eyes, PR pros. Keep those tissues at the ready, and tell us what you’d add to this list.

Michelle Messenger Garrett is a public relations consultant, speaker and award-winning writer with more than 20 years of agency, corporate, startup and Silicon Valley experience. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.

Topics: PR

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