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Holding a Grudge

July 23, 2013

angry_girlAustralian IT journalist Simon Sharwood (and no, that’s not him pictured left) posted an interesting two-part tweet last week:

“Among the many things I don’t get about PR is why negative coverage results in cessation of engagement, not more engagement 1/2”


“2/2 If PRs are as good as they say, surely they can turn negative writers around?” (

Simon’s observations in his part one tweet are very true – I’ve been in situations where the client (both internal and external) that I’ve been working for has said to me that they never want to deal with a particular journalist again, either because of a bad experience during the interview or due to negative coverage received.

When a client tells you categorically that they don’t want to deal with a particular journalist or publication again, it’s a hard one to counter, but ideally you shouldn’t get yourself in that position into the first place.

As a PR practitioner, it’s really important not to automatically assume that a media spokesperson put forward by a company fully understands and appreciates the nuances of journalism. The spokesperson needs to be aware that the journalist they are speaking to is responsible only to his or her publication and readers, and that the outcome of any media interaction is ultimately out of that spokesperson’s control, with either positive or negative consequences.

As for part two of Simon’s tweet, I appreciate that he is looking at it from the perspective of the journalist, but from a PR side I see it completely differently. I don’t think it should be the job of the PR to ‘turn negative writers around’. I think our job is to turn the client around, and make sure that they realise that they can only truly control their marketing message when they are using their own vehicles for communication – their company’s website, newsletters, brochures, advertisements, videos, case studies and presentations.

However, there are some tremendous benefits in doing PR – you are communicating with market sectors, industries and customers that you might not otherwise be able to reach – and your message, in being delivered through the media, is achieving a level of external validation that often gives it a greater impact than anything you do directly.

On the downside, you have to live with the great uncertainty as to how your message is interpreted and delivered. Personally, I think that is what makes PR exciting, but your clients won’t always see it that way.

(Pictured above: “Angry Girl“, by jasonippolito licensed for re-use by Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0))

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 2, 2014 4:05 pm

    Who’s job is it to turn a negative writer around if not PR? Do you just let a negative writer go back to the trough time after time and trash your clients?

    • March 3, 2014 9:36 am

      Hi Simon – I guess the point of my post was to draw attention to the relationship between the client and the PR practitioner, rather than attempting to provide any insight into turning around a negative writer. I don’t think that a PR person should ever advocate for a client to stop dealing with a overly-negative journalist – unless the engagement or response has been totally unreasonable or unprofessional. My view on negative writers is that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and the job of the PR practitioner is to continue to help their clients tell the best stories possible about their products or services, ensure that the engagement between the media and the clients’ spokespeople is as good as it can be, and to counter any unfounded criticism or inaccurate coverage as effectively as possible.

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