Recently, Chris Anderson, the executive editor of Wired magazine, posted an inflammatory story on his blog about PR people who bombard him with news releases without doing their homework to find the appropriate person within his organization who “might actually be interested in what they’re pitching.” He then went on to post 329 unsolicited email addresses. The list included people from some of the top PR firms in the country. For the record, nobody from Kel & Partners was on the list.
I would like to remind Chris that “people are people,” not the a**holes he makes them out to be. Everyone at every level, including Chris, strives for one thing – to do a good job and be recognized and rewarded for it. It’s quite simple. The thing is when we are early in our careers, we probably don’t do everything right – in fact, we probably make a lot of mistakes. Hell knows that early on I stumbled my way through a roadway littered with my mistakes – from cashier to chambermaid to security guard (complete with hat & tie) to marketing manager to CEO of this company. I still make mistakes, although please don’t tell my kids.
It reminds me of the nervous teenager working the cash register on his first day of work, at his first job ever. His manager is breathing down his neck as an angry line forms. I believe in cutting the kid some slack and telling him to take his time. We were all new at a job at some point. I’m sure Chris’ first stories were a shell of the work he produces today, and they are quite possibly even laughable. Who cares? He was on his way to a great career and needed to make mistakes and learn from them to get to where he is today. I’m sure many of the PR people who emailed Chris were very junior. I’m not sure publicly humiliating them is going to help them any more than a well directed response email would have.
People are people. A PR pro doesn’t go to work thinking, “How can I do the least amount of work today and piss off as many journalists as possible?” People are people. A snapshot of my employees offers a glimpse into the human element behind the “hacks” as many refer to us. One of my employees recently battled cancer. One is losing his Mom to a terminal illness. One is dealing with a high risk pregnancy. One needs to take her son to Children’s Hospital to see a specialist. One has a son who was diagnosed with brain cancer at six months. These are real human beings who come to work every day and work hard on behalf of their clients even though they are dealing with life’s many challenges.
I also remind Chris that lumping people under a single label is never fair. I’m sure Chris is well aware that “The Media” are not viewed in a positive light by many people. The stereotype of a typical media professional is someone who is lazy, never does proper research and looks to make money off of twisting a story at someone else’s expense. This couldn’t be more untrue. The vast majority of media people I know are hard-working, underpaid professionals who are trying to do a good job, and along the way, maybe be recognized and rewarded for it. At the same time, they have a job to do.
I just finished Anderson Cooper’s new book, Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival. In it Cooper does a wonderful job describing the internal struggle he has with needing to do his job (reporting) versus dropping everything to help the many victims that he encounters. PR people have a job to do. It is our job to help our clients secure media coverage. None of us are perfect, but most of us love what we do and have very grateful clients. Most of us approach our profession with honesty, integrity and a well-meaning heart. I think Chris really tripped a bound when he went on the attack. I always chose empathy and compassion over tirades and humiliation. In a recent New York Times story on the incident, it was noted by a pundit that “PR people do the legwork for journalists – feeding them stories and sources, and doing research.” Sound pretty accurate to me.
People are people.