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Give good dish

Survey by COM students reveals PR pitfalls

Students in the mass communication, advertising, and public relations program at the College of Communication have some advice for public relations professionals: “be as open as possible with the media,” “be honest,” offer “good dish on their competitors,” and above all, “don’t send crap.”

Last fall, 11 students in a mass communication research class interviewed 22 reporters and editors at Boston newspapers and radio and television stations to gain some insight into the often-contentious relationship between media outlets and public relations agencies. Led by Anne Danehy, a COM lecturer and an executive at local firm Howell Communications, the students asked media professionals about their ideal relationship with local businesses, the kind of information they want, and the biggest mistakes PR people make.

The results, which offer a real-world perspective to students who may be training for a career in public relations, reveal some predictable conflicts between hacks and flacks: reporters said that PR professionals often sent them information that wouldn’t interest the publication’s audience, and weren’t always aware of the need to provide information on deadline. However, most of the people surveyed expressed a desire for better relationships with PR professionals and offered their thoughts on how the groups can establish trust.

“It is a constant, ongoing effort to reach out,” the editor of a business publication said. “It is building a working relationship.”

Responding to the comments, the students’ “Top 10 suggestions for business” advise PR professionals to be honest at all times — because “the media will always have the resources to obtain the truth anyway” — and to make senior-level employees and executives available when needed. In addition, they recommend that businesses create well-crafted story suggestions instead of sales pitches and learn the demographics of targeted publications.

And, most important, “never call at deadline hour.”

“DON’T CALL ON DEADLINE,” a business reporter advised. “Call the newspaper to find out when [it is].”