PR Parables: When a humiliating PR experience ended with a lesson In humility

This was about a large business conglomerate, all set to do a big launch announcement for their brand new category launch and it was also to announce and launch the brand ambassador for this category

Given the concerted and all out push from the company to build its salience within the category and buoyed by the fact the claim was being supported by a good line up of products for their potential customers, the PR team smelled the opportunity to scope out a marketing feature with a business daily that has built a formidable reputation by way of its unbiased and pure editorially driven content stuff.

So the task was well defined and folks in the team were given specific responsibility based on their skills and attributes. The onus of exploring the possibilities of the marketing story was given to one of the team members. It helped that in the recent past, this communications person had had conversations over emails and on the phone with the journalist who used to cover this section for this business daily. At that point of time, she didn't think that there would be any issues in getting across to her contact and she also gave the commitment to the client that within a week she would be able to get a clear response from the journalist on whether she can do or cannot. 

Once the briefing and outline summary note was ready to be shared with the journalist, the communications person in charge of this standalone media engagement was quite confident of the next steps. She was quite sure that post sending the mail she would, in due course hear back from the journalist. Not for a moment did she worry or even anticipate that things could go awry. She just felt good remembering the number of occasions when she had bailed out this journalist who was always in need of good speakers at their various editorial events. The first mail was sent out with hope. 

After two weeks of no response from the journalist,  a polite reminder mail was sent requesting for her feedback, no response to that either. In the next week, two phone calls made by the communications staff went unanswered, no call back either. Two SMS messages sent in the same week also went unanswered. All available mediums of communication outreach were exhausted.   

Meanwhile the clock was ticking away, time was running out. And the team was to get back to the client, they had to revert with regard to  feedback from the publication, but in the situation that they were, it wasn't easy to face the client. A no response is the worst situation one can be in this role. It truly undermines the position and the capabilities of the communications person.

And yes the lady who had all this while “assumed” that she had good professional connects with the journalist was now feeling quite humiliated, because of the lack of words from the other end. What could she do now, how can they get someone to know about this pending mail response. No one in the team wanted to give up on the chances of a good marketing story just because of this. They all respected the publication and its content. 

I guess when one goes through an experience like this, there is always an unseen force that tugs you to think positively and look at other options. You get engulfed by the feeling of not to give in nor give up.

And this is what drove the PR leader, she decided to reach out to the editor of this publication, not to complain but only to take his help so as to come to a conclusion. 

Her mail to the editor, who also happened to be the boss of the “missing” journalist, was crisp, clear and concise. She did point out that the only reason of writing to him was because there has been NO response to any of the messages sent to his colleague.  In her mail to the editor she gave him the chronological order of the first mail, the reminder emails, the SMS messages and the calls. She ended her mail with a line of hope.

 What happened next is why this story made it to PR Parables, within an hour of sending the mail, she received a response from the editor of this publication. He wrote " sorry, this is not who we are, this shouldn’t have happened". What a humbling experience for the entire communications team.

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