Friday, February 13, 2009

Press relations

Not everything you read in the papers is NEWS! This might come as a shock to you, but a lot of what you read and, indeed, see Bill and Sian saying on the BBC (of all places) is actually generated by press officers.

Press officers operate in the shadows of media, they work on behalf of companies. Or ‘clients’ as they’re often called in the trade. These companies or ‘clients’ need to promote their wares. Using the press in order to promote their wares amounts, pretty much, to free publicity.

And, what’s more, it’s better than advertising, because people are credulous and tend to believe stuff they’re told or they read in a paper.

The relationship between journalists and press officers can be fractious. Because often so-called press release or ‘pitches’ are wide of the mark in terms of interest for the journalist’s readership.

But sometimes the press officer hits the nail right bang smack on the head and EVERYONE wins. The company trying to promote itself wins, the press officer wins, the journalist wins and finally the READERS (that’s you and me folks) win. This morning, for example, I received a UK FIRST!!!! It landed right in my Twitter box (@Barrynewsdesk).

Here’s what it said: “@Lisa Tse sweetmandarin. Hi Barry, Hope u r well. Would u like to feature us as the FIRST UK chinese restaurant 2use twitter 4 business. see press release”

You're damn right I would @Lisa Tse.

It’s news readers, believe you me. A Chinese restaurant in Manchester is using the social media phenomenon to promote itself.

“I put aside my common sense (and time) and signed up. 400 followers and 200 tweets later, I’m hooked and I wear my heart on my sleeve,” said the restaurant owner in her carefully crafted press release.

Next time I’m in Manchester I might pop in and check it out. I’ll drop them a line first though, after this blog post I expect the Royal Treatment.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that we journalists have it easy, we just sit around waiting for press releases to drop into our inboxes and then write about the things that offer up the best opportunity for a slap up feast!!!! ;-)

Sometimes though, when the journalist smells the scent of an exciting lead, he or she takes a proactive approach and actually contacts the press officer direct.

Yesterday, for example, I decided that I’d stay true to my earlier words. I dropped Sam Glover a media officer at PETA a line to ask for his views on Fuck You, Penguin and also to ask how the credit crunch is affecting them. This current economic client could have a damaging and lasting effect on animal welfare. As a journalist it’s good to ask both open and closed questions.

Here’s what I sent:

Dear Sam

Let me introduce myself. I'm Barry, a freelance journalist, it's a new career path for me (after 15 glorious and successful years in sales I was made redundant), so I'm kinda finding my way around a bit.

I have a couple of questions for you. First, how is the credit crunch affecting you guys? Second, are you aware of F*ck You, Penguin?

FUP is a blog. The blogger posts a picture of a cute looking animal, then spends a couple of paragraphs of abuse. It seems like a strange message to be sending out into the world. However, it is massively popular. As a new blogger myself, I've been following FUP to see how one builds a massive following.

You can see my blog here:

If you have time, I suggest taking a look at FUP ( - I'd been keen to get your views up on my blog.

I am considering becoming a vegetarian. I don't know if that'll swing you in my favour.

All the best


ps. I have added your blog to the list of blogs that I follow and I will be urging my followers to do likewise.

pps. that stunt with the topless activists was a touch of genius!


You might have noticed me write ENDS before. It’s just a trick of the journalism trade. It’s a bit like that advert dot you used to get in the corner of your telly before the adverts started.

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