Thursday, July 01, 2004

A Cardinal Sin

Ask any PR pro about the single most aggravating thing a client can do and in the Top 5 you'll always hear, "Re-scheduling a press meeting." Yet it happens all the time, despite our entreaties before and during the appointment-booking process to please - oh, god, please - block off some sacrosanct "PR Time" on the executive spokesperson's schedule.

Say you're headed off to the Big Apple. Many execs love making this trip. The genesis of the journey is a PR tour, but it quickly becomes a reason to also attempt everything else, from sight-seeing (boondoggle!) to meeting with customers and/or Wall Street analysts. Alluvasudden the 5 PR appointments become the least important items on the schedule, and the PR team is mandated with shuffling (or canceling) editorial meetings to suit the exec's changing priorities.

I'm not saying that meeting with Wall Street or customers is a bad thing - in fact we encourage our clients to work some "real" business into a PR tour. (Frankly we like our clients to have a full schedule of to-do's so that they are never twiddling their thumbs - and blaming us for scraps of "wasted" time.) But I am saying that:

1) PR is Business - Every editor should be treated as your single biggest prospect. Because their articles about the company/product can and will motivate true prospects to consider your offering.

2) Reporters are People, Too - Do you know any busy person who appreciates it when a meeting that they made time for (despite their reservations about the caliber of the story) is canceled or changed? At the last minute? What message are you sending to the reporter? - You are saying that something else is more important than them. Who likes hearing that?

3) It Hurts Your Reputation & Mine - If you peeve the reporter by jerking around their schedule, they'll think less of your company, and, they'll think less of my PR firm. (By the way, it ain't easy getting these appointments and it's even harder to change 'em.)

Sure, sh** happens, but if you are planning a press tour, please please please: try your level best to block out some inviolate PR-only time on the schedule. Changing or canceling a meeting with the media should be a last resort.

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