Technical PR agencies – They’re not so bad…

July 5, 2013

A guest post by Caroline Hayes, freelance technology journalist

Although I seem to have struck a nerve with the 12-point plan to wind up editors, my sense of fair play means I should redress the balance and list the reasons why PR companies can be dear to an editor’s heart. Here is my recruitment advert with the ‘required’ and ‘desired but not essential’ categories for anyone in search of the perfect agency.

Wanted, a creative but accurate writer, able to prise out of a shy client a story that is of interest to others, even if the company is bored with it and has moved on to other projects before it has been released.

Must have some technical knowledge but more important is the ability to ask questions, not to fill silent pauses, but to acquire knowledge that the editor is likely to ask on behalf of their readers.

Can you mediate an over-zealous client and a paranoid journalist, convinced your announcement is part of a conspiracy or determined to show how clever he is by reciting all the industry facts ahead of a question?

We are looking for someone who is friendly and cheerful, even to the grumpy journalist who has not had enough sleep and thinks you are standing inbetween them and a microcontroller story that is potentially more explosive than Watergate. Candidates must also be able to politely suggest one journalist is hogging question time, while encouraging others to pipe up for a lively exchange.

Are you a problem-solver? Can you create a 1200 word, factual, non-marketing, focused article at 18 hours’ notice to fill a gap? Candidates will be asked to demonstrate their ability to act as if missing the planned night out is a pleasure and the facility not to hold their breath when asking which competitor let the editor down so badly.

In meetings, either 1-2-1 or round-table, can you steer the conversation to the topic of the meeting and away from the cost of parking in town these days?  The ability to sensitively suggest that no editor will swallow that nonsense/not laugh at that graph without losing the account is essential.

The successful candidate must have experience of table planning so that members of the press mix well with the company representatives. Must also be able to demonstrate an ability to simultaneously ensure that the lush at the end of the table is kept away from the wine waiter; and that the Rottweiler reporter is not placed near the nervous new employee or the staff member that fell for “trust me, I’m a journalist” last time and over-shared with the group.

The ability to be patient when co-ordinating travel arrangements and timings for journalists who want to arrive at the same time, despite starting out in three different time zones is desirable. The ability to smile and remain unphased when trains, planes and automobiles shift the schedule back an hour is desirable. Applicants must be able to identify and book a good hotel and/or restaurant close to all main stations and convenient for airports, at short notice.  The ability to eat your least-favourite three courses, while sipping water and taking action points, is desirable. Candidates will be asked to cite three examples of reasons why a plate of sandwiches in the client’s office in the back of beyond, is not conducive to good reporting.

Experience in an editorial office is an advantage, as is the ability to think like an editor, write like an editor after the subs’ desk has got hold of the copy and to drink like an editor without slurring. Clock watchers need not apply.

Candidates who look at their watches/ check mobile phones during a meeting need not apply.

Successful applicants will be informed….sometime after the deadline….and up to 12 hours before the start date!


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