There are several reasons why journalists and PR pros aren’t the best of friends, but the main gripe I hear from journalists (and bloggers) is the news/information isn’t relevant to what they write about. Another big complaint is PR people are difficult to contact or don’t respond when the journalist or blogger reaches out to them.
The one “not too often heard” reason why journalists and bloggers aren’t fond of PR pros is because they’ve been lied to at some point. I can’t think of any instance where lying would result in a better outcome than telling the truth, but sadly, I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to find a journalist or blogger with a related story to tell.
So, why am I continuing to pour fire onto the PR pros versus journalists/bloggers wound? Because I experienced what it’s like to catch someone in a lie who contacted me with a story idea for my personal blog, Essential Elements. I don’t think she is in the PR industry, but I now fully empathize with any writer who has felt burned by someone who reached out to them.
Long story short, the person who contacted me raised a few red flags in the beginning that I looked past because the content she shared was actually relevant to what I write about on my blog. I asked her the very first day she contacted me if she had shared or was planning to share this same content with other bloggers. She had suggested a guest post, and I’m in the camp that thinks guest posts should not be duplicated on various blogs. A guest post should be unique and tailored specifically to the blog you’re writing it for (I do think it’s OK to cross post it on your own blog and link back to the original guest post). She responded that she had not given this post to any other bloggers.
The day I decided to upload her guest post to my blog, I thought “maybe I should do a quick search to make sure this isn’t posted anywhere else.” Sure enough, I found three other blogs with the exact same post from the same person.
What made this person think it was OK to lie about sending me a unique guest post? Did she really think I wouldn’t take two seconds to do a Google search when I asked if she sent this to anyone else?
I still don’t understand why some PR pros think it’s OK to send a story idea to a journalist/blogger without first doing the necessary research. Maybe, for whatever reason, they just weren’t taught the proper steps to take when researching relevant media. That’s a skill that can easily be learned with the proper guidance and education.
Something that should be more inherent is telling the truth. If you are old enough to send someone a story idea to write about, you’re sure as heck old enough to know that lying is unacceptable…especially when people are notorious for outing poor professionals through social media channels!
I am choosing to take the high road and am not naming this person, her organization or website. I responded politely, but firmly, when I e-mailed her back to say I would not be posting her guest post because she clearly lied to me and sent it to other bloggers (of course she didn’t respond once I called her out). Maybe I should have noted my disappointment in her actions and asked her to please not ever do this again. As someone who makes a serious effort to give guidance to young PR professionals on best practices for working with media and bloggers, perhaps I should have taken it upon myself to clue this woman in on the potential future results of lying to other bloggers. My aggravation got the best of me, and I deleted her e-mail before I even considered sending some “how-to” tips.
I did not write this post to rant, rather to share some thoughts this experience generated. Even though I believe lying is something we should be taught not to do at a young age, sometimes people need to be told things point blank. We can’t complain about all the people doing it wrong unless we’re making an effort to teach them ways to do it right (even though I agree with Chris Brogan’s point that we’re all doing it wrong because we’re doing it our own way, but things like lying are clearly wrong!).
What are your thoughts? Is it acceptable for journalists/bloggers to rip someone a new one if that person lies to them about a story idea? Or, should they take the time to explain diplomatically why the heck lying is unacceptable? I can hear the many “I don’t have time to respond to liars” responses now, so fire away!