Dear PR Guy:
Why are nonprofit executive directors (not all, but a lot) so reluctant to call reporters up on the phone? They ask foundations and individuals for millions of dollars without blinking, but the thought of calling a prominent columnist or key reporter about a story idea turns them to mush. Is that why they hire PR people?
Signed, Dupont Circle Girl
Dear Dupont Circle Girl,
As to the first part of your question, Executive Directors tend to think the same about reporters as PR people do about grantmakers or teenage boys do about teenage girls or, alas, too many Americans think of elected officials. Which is to say the difference of roles in the relationship — coupled with the fear of the unknown — creates a false perception of power differential. Better to have Susie tell Kenisha that Jack likes Jane then run the risk of rejection and crushing public humiliation.
Of course, the world would work much better if people did not create Rube Goldberg-style contraptions to manage personal and professional relationships, but then what would advice columnists do for a living?
As to why EDs hire PR people, it’s because communicators play a vital link in the strategic organizational hierarchy. While we’re constantly reminded that what we do is not brain surgery, the PR Guy would no sooner like to see the average surgeon try and develop an effective message than he would trust invasive cranial intervention to himself, or any of his PRSA buds (no offense, PRSA buds).
Unfortunately, far too few Executive Directors know this. And instead believe they hire PR people to put out press releases on information that is not newsworthy and pitch the wrong reporters with the wrong story for the wrong reason.
Is there hope? There’s always hope. But that’s the topic of another column.
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