Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Here's the thing about public relations

The thing about working in public relations is, you do your best to tell a story to the members of the press that you think they might be interested in covering, but you have no control over any of the following:

- whether they choose to cover it at all
- if they cover it, what slant they might put on it (that is, whether their story will be favorable, in your estimation, or not)
- if they cover it, what importance they give it, relative to other stories

All you can do is tell them your story, give them the facts, try to make sure they spell your name correctly, and hope for the best.

You cannot call a journalist the day after his article about you appeared in the paper, and say, "Hey! You made me look really bad in that article!" Well, you can, but his response will be, "Tough."

Yesterday, we had a press conference at noon, during our class period in DBH 133. You all know that, because you were there. The story we had to tell the members of the press was this: Three SJSU students were chosen as finalists in a national Super Bowl advertising competition. The students were chosen from among nearly 1,000 entries from every university and college in the United States of America.

This is a story of national interest.

So, was I disappointed that the editors at the Spartan Daily felt that the most important story of the day on Tuesday was a car accident on Fourth Street? A story that involved no one even remotely connected to SJSU, did not take place on the campus, and in no way involved the university at all? A story which emphasized that point by stating, "According to University Police Department Sgt. Mike Santos, the University Police are not handling the incident."

Was I disappointed that even a story about trick-or-treating deserved, in the estimation of the Daily's editors, front page above-the-fold placement, when our story about SJSU students thrusting SJSU onto the national stage was relegated to page 3?

You bet I was disappointed. And embarassed, to tell you the truth. Not embarassed about my efforts at public relations, but embarassed in exactly the way that you are embarassed for a friend when she gets drunk at a fancy restaurant and throws up on the waiter's feet.

Was I further disappointed by the fact that the Mercury News sent no one to cover the story at all? Of course.

Was I extremely disappointed by the fact that Lloyd LaCuesta, who is KTVU Channel 2's South Bay Bureau Chief, and who is also a lecturer right here in the School of Journalism & Mass Communications at SJSU, deemed our story unworthy of coverage?

Yes, at first. But having him drop in at the end of our news conference and see that the local CBS and NBC affiliates had sent camera crews and on-air reporters to cover the story?


(Click here to watch the video of CBS's coverage.)

And now I've swung the P.R. pendulum back the other way. Inevitably, the Daily and Mr. La Cuesta will be offended by what I've just said here. And you know what I have to say to them?


Addendum: the state of Indiana apparently thinks it's newsworthy just to have their students enter the competition. I'm no journalism professor, but it seems pathetic to me when the best you can do for a headline is to say "we tried!"


Kelley Lugea said...


M Sanouvong said...

Wow, gutsy--LOVE IT!

Faith said...

I totally agree. The front page also featured an article on the MOSAIC talent show, which could have easily been swapped for our ad team's "national stage" story. At least Kelly, Lou-Lou and Anna got some pretty big pictures in the paper, huh?

Anonymous said...

This was just hilarious, amazing:

"Yes, at first. But having him drop in at the end of our news conference and see that the local CBS and NBC affiliates had sent camera crews and on-air reporters to cover the story?