Friday, October 03, 2008

Why you should read that boring press release redux

Reading Aaron Brazell’s Twitter feed this morning, I was reminded of this previous post.

Let me begin by stating what I consider the role of flacks and the role of hacks.

The role of flacks is to present our client’s message to the public in a way that is compelling, relevant, and persuasive. That means we must do our best to identify the columnists, reporters, bloggers, and all other influencers relevant to our client’s business. We must do our best to understand the preferences and idiosyncrasies of these influencers. Do they prefer email, web form, or are they one of those rare individuals who actually prefer phone pitches (yes, there are some). It is our obligation to build as many relationships as we can with these influencers. That is what our clients pay us for.

It is the role of the hack to provide interesting, compelling and relevant information to their readers. It is their prerogative to determine what constitutes relevant, how they wish to receive that information and who they wish to receive it form. Flacks have no choice but to respect that. We are the least important player in all of this.

As Brian Morrissey observes, “pretty tired of vendors who think i'm here to advertise their 'new solutions' under the guise of news.”

Hacks have the obligation to put their readers first. Readers don’t care about a hack’s relationship with their sources. Where the information came from has no relevance, save that it is true and relevant. Even if the press release is clearly self serving and comes from a flack who is a complete stranger; it may still be worth a glance. Remember, the reader doesn’t care about your relationship with your sources.

BusinessWire is listed as a top sources on TechMeme’s Leaderboard. Clearly many readers are interested in what flacks have to say. In a world of Google news alerts there is no distinction between a news organization and an online press release. According to an Outsell study, over 51% of IT professionals reported that they get their news from press release. If our writing were so boring and irrelevant, we would not have so many readers.

I write this not merely out of self-interest to encourage hacks to read Presto Vivace press releases. The reason I write this is because I think the great blunders of contemporary journalism stem at least in part, because of journalists who put relationships before readers. (I wish to specifically exclude Brazell from this; but feel that this is such a slippery slope that I must speak out.)

If the only sources you are willing to use are those who took the trouble to build a relationship with you, then the only news you are going to hear is from corporations and other organizations that can support the cost of building those relationships and you will only hear their point of view. That attitude has not been good for journalism or our country. Indeed it can be deadly. Readers are best served by hacks who remain open to all sources and are willing to bear the burden of separating the wheat from the chaff.


Anonymous said...

It is true that the role of the "hack" is too often underestimated. They provide the passion to the story of the event at hand. Also, the press release used to be written in almost an art form. Most are just dribbled out with information and not much else. But the "hack" is the middle man in the social compact, whether he or she be called politican, press secretary, corporate spokes person, etc. They are vital and necessary is modern communication.

Danny L. McDaniel
Lafayette, Indiana

Alice said...

I use the term hack with affection and respect. If you look at the top right hand corner of this blog you will see links to Reporters Without Borders and the Committee for the Protection of Journalists.

Reporters and editors should always be treated with respect and should not be burdened with driveling press releases; but sometimes even driveling press releases contain news.

All I am saying is that it is crucial to keep in mind that readers are the important players in all of this.