Why I Fired a Travel Writer

How not to work with PR people

I’ve been working on this post for several days now…..

…and hesitated even publishing it but on Monday I read Trisha’s “Why Am I Not Getting Invited on Press Trips?” Then, a couple nights ago @solofriendly and @dkferm had a similar discussion.

Trust me, I am not the type of person that dots my I’s with hearts and smiley faces. And I find the song “Don’t’ Worry Be Happy” to be incredibly annoying. But I do believe in happiness and the pursuit thereof. I do believe in our inherent right to have fun, and enjoy life.

You’re a travel writer. I’m guessing you agree with that, and love what you do. I am in PR, own my own business and as it turns out, I too, love what I do.

Mutual understanding of our respective business models gets us so much more out of life

I declined a potential travel writer visit this past week because I could foretell that she would disturb my happy place. And I wanted to share that here.

A writer approached me and my client requesting a media visit explaining the story they were interested in, and the name of the outlet. Nothing else. Of course I Googled the name of the writer and the name of the magazine, neither of which turned up much.

The magazine’s website had empty pages on it. A twitter account had less than 100 followers and no interactivity. A LinkedIn account had no profile filled out and I couldn’t find a website.

I responded asking the obvious questions looking for more information on the outlet with circulation numbers, distribution, and geographic info, clips and oh, perhaps a website or blog? The response was, “..I’ve been doing this for 12 years and am surprised because other PR people don’t have a problem finding information on me. Did you consider Googling my name?

Thank you but no thank you.

And I don’t care who you write for. I just don’t see this working out between us even if I do bend over backwards (which is my tendency) to work with you.

I did eventually get clips and determine this person to be legitimate. But this conversation is only the beginning of a lengthy working relationship, which under normal circumstances is an enjoyable and productive one.

What would you have done in my position? In this day and age is there any excuse not to have a website, blog and/or complete LinkedIn profile with links to writing samples? More importantly, wouldn’t it make sense, upon approaching me, to have thoughtfully put together a pitch that includes all the information (or links) to help me counsel my clients to a good decision? That’s what I do when I approach writers.

This particular writer seemed to think that the typical things I look for when I’m screening writers for my client didn’t matter (You know, influence, audience, etc). Our initial encounter demonstrated a lack of… I don’t know, respect? Understanding of MY needs? Will this be further amplified as we continue the process?

Don’t even get me started about the crazy things and requests that happen on press trips….like the one who requested a driver, and an all-organic diet with two fruits a day…..Oops – I got started.

I’m talking about managed expectations all the way around on what our roles are in the pr/writer relationship.

97% Nice Guy/Gal Rule (nice vs. being a jerk)

I don’t like to complain. I chalk this story up to the 3% Jerk Rule. I see the glass as more than half full (thus the section heading).

I love it when we kick ass together and make each other look good. You have an editor and/or a readership that you answer to, and I have a client that I answer to. Mutual understanding of our respective business models gets us so much more out of life.

Such as the time I received an email the day after I dropped everything to help someone on deadline saying “Thank you so much, I really enjoy working with you,” or when my friend Kara sent me a clip from Everyday with Rachael Ray that included my client with a note that said the only reason its in there is “because of social media and because (I’m) cool”……or when my client is ecstatic because I helped to get them in front of a new audience. This is a way better high than opening the envelope with the check in it. I could get a check for doing any number of jobs. I choose this one for a reason.

As it turns out, I think you do too.

~ Lisa

Do you work with PR people? Share your advice!

About Lisa Gerber 4 Articles

In 2001 Lisa Gerber escaped the city life and found the dream life she had envisioned from her Seattle office cubicle. She now lives on a mountain outside of Sandpoint, Idaho with her husband and two dogs, where she telemark skis, mountain bikes and practices yoga (all so she can indulge in her passion of fine food and wines), and where she has been telling the story of organizations small to large since 2004. 

Her firm, Big Leap Creative, is a mountain lifestyle public relations and strategic communications firm catering to the outdoor, hospitality, recreational real estate, food and wine industries.

You can read more of Lisa's writing on her blog, The 26-Hour Day where she would blog more frequently if the day did indeed have 26 hours, and you can also follow Lisa on Twitter.

11 Comments

  1. Lisa, What a terrific article. Not only to let us know how we can help PR help us, but to remind those of us who are only a year in as to what PR is looking for when we request a visit. I hadn’t thought of linking articles to Linked In, but will do so pronto.

    Thanks again for an enlightening article. Although I am polite and write well, I need to remember to include readership numbers and a little more about myself and my blog. Anything to help the process along.

    Best,
    Patti
    .-= Patti Davis´s last blog post: A Spaghetti Pie Housewarming =-.

  2. GREAT post, Lisa! For sure your response to my HARO query stood out because I’ve gotten to know you on Twitter – if we didn’t have that personal relationship, I may not have included the winery in my round-up, indeed. (But it was also an AWESOME fit for the piece.)

    Win-win all around.

  3. I agree with you, Lisa. There is no excuse for a travel writer not having a website or some other digital presence. I also use the same measurement standards for PR firms. If a PR firm is not active on social media, I can’t help but wonder how current they really are. Plain and simple, this is how we communicate today, or at least, it’s one of the ways we communicate.

    On the other hand, I know of some so-called travel writers who don’t necessarily write, but have vast social networks! They fancy themselves “influencers,” which in some cases, is very accurate. Nonetheless, this is the kind of stuff that gets ME started. It is scary.

    A smart PR person has to go above and beyond any presentation someone might make and NOT just look at numbers.

    At FarewellTravels.com, we pride ourselves on having the right numbers in our network and reaching people who are interested in reading what WE have to say. Anyway, talk about getting me started…

  4. I’m with you on this, Lisa. A little respect on both sides goes a very long way. As we said in our conversation, those who think they’re too big for their britches, usually have no reason to feel that way:)

    Happy we met on twitter!

    Debbie

  5. I definitely would have backed away from this one as well, Lisa, based on the tone in her email response. Had I been in her position, I’d have been embarrassed that I hadn’t provided you with all that information in my first query. I would have then apologized and corrected that by giving you all the information you needed. Ultimately, you have every right to walk away from a potential relationship if you think it’s not going to work out for you. Any relationship is a two-way street. I’m glad you wrote this. I think it’s important for writers to see things from the PR point of view. It can only improve interactions between PR and writers if we understand where each party is coming from.
    .-= Gray´s last blog post: New Logo and Other News at SoloFriendly =-.

  6. Sigh.

    I’d love to say I’m shocked and surprised, but I’m not. I’ve been witness to so much inappropriate behaviour (mostly in my Inbox, mind you) over the years I’ve become insensitive to the “I’m a total jerk and have no idea” mentality.

    Unfortunately, telling these people they are what they are does no good. So best for us not-so-crazy people stick together and hope for the best. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing – perhaps said individual will realise their error!

    Andy
    .-= Andy Hayes´s last blog post: Beat the Winter Blues- Sunniest Places in the World =-.

  7. Nice post, Lisa. I also suggest that PR people always request the name and email address of the assigning editor. I get many emails from properties and PR people asking if a writer is legit and about 10% of the time he/she isn’t. This won’t help when it’s a self-employed blogger, but it will help you avoid the many fakes out there.

  8. Interesting article, good to hear from the other side of the experience. The travel writer doesn’t sound particularly professional to say “I’ve been doing this for 12 years and am surprised because other PR people don’t have a problem finding information on me. Did you consider Googling my name?”

    How hard is to include a link in an email, especially when you want something from a PR.

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