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Reflections on a PR/Editor Panel

If writers and PR pros had a relationship on Facebook (and many do), then they'd almost all check the box for "it's complicated," because, well, it is complicated. I know because I used to work on the other side, and I remember the pressure to pitch wildly inappropriate articles just because the client (or in this case, my boss) wanted press NOW. I also remember how torturous it is to craft a personalized, carefully tailored pitch and never heard from the recipient. (Heck, that still happens to me.)

But I have to admit that lately I haven't had such great interactions with PR pros. This is partly my fault because I don't often take PR pitches and send them to my editor (who was potentially bcc'ed on the press release anyway). I'm more likely to contact a PR person out of the blue and request a short interview with their client. In theory, this should be a PR pros' dream, because it's media coverage that they didn't have to hunt down themselves.

But like I said, "it's complicated." Sometimes their client is uncooperative or they really don't have the time for an interview. I get it. But please don't tell me you'd be happy to help and then go MIA for several weeks or tell me your client will only speak through you or wait until two days before my deadline to offer me sources who will then decline the interview (all of which has happened recently).

Rants aside, I attended a PR event last night, and it reminded me that we're not really that different. They want to please their client and get media coverage, and I want to please my editor and get more assignments. We chould be working together towards this goal. Repeat after me: "freelancers are your friends." (Sort of, I won't pitch something wildly inappropriate to my editor, because that only makes me look like a PR puppet.) Sometimes we know stuff about a publication that you don't. Sometimes we can spot that gem of a story idea hiding beneath all the corporate-speak.

Several of the other women at my table work in PR and were surprised to hear about my recent experiences. I'm sure they are the exception, the 9% or so that the editors on the panel said they actually want to hear from (yikes! I empathized with them when those numbers got thrown around, because basically everything the editors said about studying the magazine and remembering lead times could apply to freelancers, too). We exchanged business cards and talked about a few potential story ideas, and I'm hopeful that my impression will prove accurate.

Writers, what's your experience working with PR professionals: good, bad, ugly? And PR pros, what can freelancers do to help gain your trust and make your job easier?

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Reflections on a PR/Editor Panel + sources