Q Please settle an argument I'm having with a coworker. We work in the corporate communications department of a large sportswear manufacturer. I am head of media relations, my colleague heads up internal communications. Our CEO has never made much time for the PR department, but relies heavily on an external consultant, who is also a friend of hers. Whenever there is a crisis, the CEO calls this friend for advice, but we don't have any relationship with this consultant - she works totally for the CEO and never consults us about any of the strategy. Isn't this backwards? Isn't the internal PR team supposed to drive strategy while the consultants and PR agencies are basically the arms and legs that execute programs?
Our debate regards how to handle this. I think that we should confront this consultant and tell her that she should confer with us more regularly. My colleague thinks we should be more passive and start sharing our work with the consultant more openly, in the hopes she'll include us more in her process. Who is right?
Mr. L, Atlanta
A You are both wrong. Your conflict is with the CEO, not with this consultant.
You need to find out why you are being left out of major strategic discussions.
Judging by the inordinate amount of energy you are spending worrying about this external person, I suspect that you have not been putting in enough time staying on top of your business and the company's performance. If that is true, it's no wonder your CEO doesn't consult you in times of crisis. Get your head down and figure out how your work is supporting the company's mission. If you can't prove that to the CEO, you have a bigger problem than you realize.
Q I work for an entertainment PR firm that has a lot of high-profile clients, as well as some stars and directors on the wane or the non-glamorous end of the pack. I'm pretty new in this field, coming from a corporate communications background with a media company. When I was in-house, I never had to look for coverage. It just came naturally.
Now that I am working with companies, as well as individuals, I have to work a lot harder to get coverage for them. And, of course, that is what they want more than anything. Since I started, I have followed the advice of some of my more experienced colleagues and have given certain reporters a heads-up on what's coming up, but it never seems to lead to anything.
For example, there is this character actor I work with who wants me to get him ink on a new project he has coming up on one of the cable networks, along with his charity work. No one is interested, even when I offer it as an exclusive. I feel like I'm playing a game where I don't know the rules. Can you tell me what I'm doing wrong?
Mr. B, Los Angeles
A Scoops are the name of the game where you're living now, as Page Six editor Richard Johnson will tell you. Offering a journalist an exclusive on a B-lister's new TV show is not going to cut it. You need to strike a balance with the journalists you are cultivating, between offering them really juicy tidbits on the moves of stars or exciting business deals, while simultaneously advancing your client's agenda. The ideas that you pitch are usually not interesting to most entertainment reporters and gossip columnists.
But if you can offer some intelligence that might lead them to a good story, apart from anything your clients are doing, you will find that you just might be rewarded with a sweet little mention about your favorite client.
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