Thursday, August 26, 2010

Who's in Charge??

While I usually post writing-related blogs to my writing blog (check it out here if you haven't yet), I need to vent, so I'm over here today. Here goes:

Every day I learn more about the world of freelance writing and the newspaper business. One thing that I've recently learned is that contact information on press releases means nothing. Just because a name is on the press release, doesn't mean that person knows anything (or that they want to talk to you).

Here's how my naive brain worked: I thought Marketing and Public Relations departments sent out press releases to inform the media of certain events. I assumed that people within these departments not only had the information on said event (after all, they had to summarize it and publish it), but I also assumed these people were Marketing/PR professionals who spent their time, and establishing public relationships.

Such is not the case. I've recently had two situations where I received press releases. Each one had the name, phone number, and email address of someone to contact for more information. Silly me - I contacted them and asked them for more information. I was then referred to contact someone else. No problem. But THEN...they referred me to ANOTHER person.

In one situation, I was sent to so many people (none of whom were available) that after two days of not being able to get any information, I finally ended up with the original contact just hours before my deadline. In another case, the contact eventually referred me to everyone else on the board because they had each handled one part of the event planning, he was only the contact person. But...isn't that the point of being the contact person? One stop shopping?

If I'm going to tell you that my sister is getting married, and you want to know how she got engaged, you don't HAVE to talk to her - I can tell you the basics of how it happened. You don't need to know what she was wearing, how cold it was, or how the dinner tasted. It's enough to say, "He proposed during dessert. The ring was with her cheesecake, and she almost didn't order it!" You don't need a first-hand account - you get the point.

That's all I want - the main point. I don't need to talk to the person who founded the company, the person who had the idea, the person who implimented the idea, and the person who brought coffee to the people who were working with the idea - I just need the main points.

When I write an article, I don't put my contact info at the end - I put names, numbers, and websites where you can get more info about the story topic. I can't tell you any more about pet memorials than I wrote in the article. You need to go to the source for that...I'll tell you how to get to the source.

So please, press release writers, tell me how to get to the source of the information. It's great that you wrote the release - I'm proud of you! But I don't need to know who wrote it, I need to know who can help me. That's all I want. Anything that you can do to point me in the right direction is very, very appreciated. Thank you.

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