Speed-dating for PRs and journos. What could possibly go wrong?

By Lee Simpson, account director at Fourth Day PR.

I’ve never been comfortable with the ancient grudge that exists between PRs and journos.

As much as I enjoy reading relentless PR bashing on Twitter (and even recently on the opening page of Sathnam Sanghera’s Empireland, bemoaning the 90,000 unread emails in his inbox from PRs) and cringing at the tirade of abuse against PRs starting their emails to journos with “I hope you’re well” – or “your (sic) well” – in Sathnam’s experience – the negative ‘energy’ does seem slightly misjudged.

Can’t we all just get along?

With this in mind, I merrily signed up to Vuelio’s speed-dating event last week, where PRs would be randomly matched to a journo and then locked in a Zoom breakout room together for 15 minutes for a ‘date’, before moving on to the next victim.

A bit like Chatroulette, but with our clothes on. And instead of any kind of X-rated tomfoolery, we would share the troubles of the daily media grind and ideally chuck in a reference or two to our clients all in the name of networking.

In an age where face-to-face meetings are hard to come by, and, if you can get hold of a phone number for a journalist, ringing it usually ends in a voicemail, this seemed like an excellent way for some facetime with the ying to our yang, the Carrie to our Boris…

We do, after all, rely on one other for our successes, don’t we?

Vuelio very generously sent us all Deliveroo vouchers to accompany the session, so I keenly ordered myself a (disappointingly small) bagel and logged on.

Despite some initial nervous energy, and probably too much talk complaining about my bagel, all four dates went surprisingly well.

The four journos I was paired with were a lovely bunch. A mix of freelancers and staff writers, representing both trade and consumer titles. What I found most interesting was the eagerness we all had to connect and chat with one another, in a setting which, despite the barrier of a screen, felt informal. Chomping through lunch at the same time helped the situation, but there was also genuine interest from the journalists in my clients and how we can work more efficiently together.

In understanding their frustrations – including receiving poor quality comments for features, or PRs missing deadlines, or just being pitched irrelevant stories – I felt we could try to work together in a way that works for everyone. As a result of their frustrations, I learned that most will use their go-to pool of PR contacts for sure-fire quality comment, as opposed to posting a #journorequest on Twitter, for example.

Also, finding new ways to make connections and being proactive is something I will take away from this. It feels like if we’re relying on email pitches, we’re fighting a losing battle. So networking events such as these seem like the perfect opportunity for soft pitches with no real agenda hidden behind them.

My first speed dating experience flew by and the abrupt end to each session mid-flow was evidence that we had much more to say to each other.

I have made four new, good contacts as a result and most importantly we have had the initial introduction that can cut through the noise of “I hope you’re well” emails.

And now I do genuinely hope they are well, not that I didn’t before, of course.

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