Recently, a piece of nonsensical advice did the rounds. It was brought to my attention when it appeared in the closed UK Tech Journalist and PR Facebook Group, earlier in November.
A journalist posted a status, exasperated by the fact that he’d had three emails from PRs in a single morning that had opened with the question: "How are you?"
It was disingenuous, he bemoaned, while taking the time to list many of life's problems, which he had fired off to one of the PRs in response. Talk about first world problems.
The post attracted numerous comments and things simmered down until the editor of The Independent chimed in on Twitter a few days later:
24 PRs blocked so far today. Every single 1 from a stranger who starts their email with the lying obsequious stupidity of "Hope you're well"— amol rajan (@amolrajan) November 18, 2015
We couldn’t resist the urge to get in on the action from the PRWeek account – and many PRs loved our cheeky little dig.
So just to clarify. Are you well? https://t.co/uSlF6SZm58— PRWeek UK (@prweekuknews) November 18, 2015
The next day, Rajan was at it again. Offering up zero constructive criticism.
Email addresses of a further 6 PRs blocked this morning. Someone somewhere is paying them to infuriate journalists and clog inboxes— amol rajan (@amolrajan) November 19, 2015
Really? So it's ok for journalists to turn on the charm when they want to secure a freebie or an event invitation? But for a PR it's now a crime to be polite?
What’s next? Will editors be issuing fatwas to stop PRs from smiling when they greet them at an event if they don’t think it’s genuine enough? Lord have mercy.
Don’t get me wrong, PRs aren’t perfect but neither are journalists. Both need to do more to improve the working relationship. But to suggest that removing pleasantries from emails is ridiculous. And to block people?
It's ironic because there are plenty of journos out there who start their emails with: "Hi [xxx], hope you’re well" when initiating contact with someone they don’t know. Personally, I find it's a professional way to start a conversation. Some acknowledge this portion in their reply and others get down to business. Either way is fine.
No-one has complained. Ever.
There's one more point that needs to be made. In my view, PRs generally have a consistently higher standard of professional conduct compared with journalists, so it's a bit rich to see the latter always running to social media and taking the moral high-ground.
Most journalists have no clue about the demands placed on in-house or agency teams and think that PRs are simply employed to sit at a desk and fire off press releases. They don't understand the dynamic between agencies and their demanding clients or the long hours involved in planning and executing events and campaigns. And if they did, most journalists would realise it's a minor miracle PRs remain so chirpy.
Maybe it's because they're powered by Duracell batteries or booze. Oh who am I kidding? It's definitely the booze.
Anyway, if there’s one thing to take away from this, it's that we should continue being polite to each other and leave out this pettiness.
Oh and before I forget, hope you're all well. I'm doing just fine.
Khidr Suleman is the digital editor at PRWeek