Everybody seems to have public relations, but what we want to know is, do you have any news?
In the weeks leading up to NPE 2000, our editorial staff was deluged with calls from PR firms seeking face time with our reporters and editors during the show.
As a reader, you don't really care. We're busy, but you're busy too. We understand.
But as a manager of a company that's paying for PR services, you should be aware of how wasteful and ridiculous some of the efforts have become:
* We can't count the number of times we've fielded calls from a clueless PR professional who started the conversation: "Are you or any member of your staff going to cover the NPE show in Chicago?" If they had any knowledge at all about the plastics industry, they'd realize that Plastics News does plan to have a few staffers at this show.
* At least three firms have FedExed or faxed multipage news releases to every single reporter or editor that signed up to attend NPE. In our case, that's 14 copies — all sent to the same address or fax number.
* Another favorite: follow-up telephone calls to everyone on the list to request interview time. I wonder how the company's CEO would feel if Plastics News really did arrange to have 14 separate staffers come by for one-on-one interviews? One reporter can handle the job just fine, thank you.
* Finally, there's the familiar case of PR staffers who have no idea what their client does calling to set up appointments. If they don't know what your company makes, how are they going to answer questions about whether the client has any significant news to announce?
It's getting to the point where we suspect some PR firms are paid on commission based on the number of warm bodies that they manage to direct to the client's booth. It's also frustrating that they all seem to want to see us on the first two days of the show.
But if the client — the NPE exhibitor — doesn't have anything to say, it's going to end up being frustrating for both the company and the reporter.
The art of schmoozing isn't dead, of course, and NPE is a fantastic place for our reporters and editors to meet face-to-face with anyone and everyone. And there are PR firms and individuals that seem to understand what their clients do, whether they have something newsworthy, and how to get that information into our reporters' hands.
To all the others we have a message: Please do your homework before the 2003 show.