Some time ago, we ran an informal survey among journalists/media/writers/editors in the games industry about their experiences with PR. Our motive was quite simple: to suck less… and to help other PR reps suck less. Now that I’ve err…. forced myself to actually dig into the 80+ responses, I’m going to start releasing our findings in a series of posts called, collectively, the “PR Embetterment Campaign.” I know “embetterment” isn’t a word. You’re not a word. Don’t tell me what’s a word.

In this first installment, we asked media, “What are your biggest pet peeves when it comes to PR reps?”

Media’s Biggest Complaint About PR — Communication

The responses we received offer, as a whole, a rather startling revelation: that as communicators, PR practitioners seem to suck at communicating. Over 50% of respondents claimed unresponsiveness as one of their biggest pet peeves about PR reps. That’s half of media surveyed — ranging from smaller outlets to “top-tier” publications — noting that they’re routinely ignored by PR.

There are obviously a lot of different reasons media would contact PR — to secure review code, ask for a comment on a story, send along coverage links — and each scenario will have a certain priority in the PR rep’s mind, while the media outlet in question will also surely play a role in PR’s responsiveness. That said, I was surprised to hear that it wasn’t simply smaller outlets that were being ignored; even editors at the biggest outlets in the industry complained about a lack of responsiveness.

Why would PR reps ignore media in the first place? I, for one, know that I’m not great about replying when someone sends over a link to coverage… in the midst of a crazy week at work, I think it’s fairly natural to read the email, to think, “the job’s done” and move on. It struck me that a number of writers felt that their email still warranted a response — after all, they took the time to cover your game and were kind enough to send over the coverage — and I can’t argue with that. I’ll have to work on it.

Scared to Say No

Failing to respond to a coverage email is a bit of a jerk move, but at that point, the media outlet has been able to post/write their story. A lot of the editors we polled were more concerned with unresponsiveness before or while they work on stories — for example, when sending review requests and requests for comment. Ignoring those inquiries not only damages your relationship with those outlets and — more importantly — the writers, but also can have a detrimental effect on your PR campaign, resulting in less coverage of your client/company/game/whatever. So why would PR reps ignore those requests?

I think it all comes down to being afraid to say no. Some PR reps don’t want to send review code to outlets that don’t meet some sort of criteria — maybe the site’s not big enough, or the reviewer gave a previous game a poor review, or maybe there aren’t enough copies of the game to go around. Regardless of the reasoning, it’s clear that media would still prefer a response — any response — than silence. In PR, you may not want to comment on a story if it paints your company in an unfavorable light… but just respond and say, “no comment,” just so media know that you’re a reliable contact, and that they can come to you in the future.

There also seems to be a prevalence in the lack of follow-through among PR reps: media are promised review code early in a campaign but never receive it. It goes without saying — but I’ll say it anyway — that if you want to build long-term relationships with media, you need to be honest and follow through on promises. Hell, if you can’t deliver something you promised, say it. Again, don’t ignore people.

What Can We Do About It?

Well, PR flaks, start by responding to your emails, voicemails, Twitter messages, carrier pigeons and so on. Duh. Think about all of the times you’ve tried to contact an editor and have been met with nothing but silence (hey media types: it’s a two-way street, right?)… how did that make you feel? I realize that the job can get busy, but it really doesn’t take much time to reply.

Next time, in Games Media’s Biggest PR Pet Peeves, Part 2

Go on to Part 2 of the first installment… yes, this is going to be a fairly long series, because I have a hard time shutting up once I get going. Anyhow, I’ll talk about some of the other pet peeves we heard about, from crappy pitches to robotic personalities.

Do you agree that PR reps suck at communicating? Do you have other complaints about PR in the games industry? Are you a PR rep who can’t stand to listen to this nonsense? Post in the comments or fear my wrath.

Other Installments of PR Embetterment Series:

Games Media’s Biggest Pet Peeves, Part 2
The Simultaneous Wonder and Folly of the Press Release

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