My CPRE (Continuing PR Education) involves reading numerous news sites, industry blogs and trade newsletters as well as following influencers via social media to gain knowledge about PR trends such as content creation, distributing it through social media and rethinking strategies for measuring our successes. But, the one constant of what we do is media relations and it remains one of the most important aspects of the practice of public relations.

I reached out to Brent Lang, a senior film and media reporter at Variety Magazine to talk about his experience working with PR pros. In this Q&A, Brent gives us insights into why he won’t open your emails, what makes a good source, preparing for an interview and gossip v. fact-based stories.

CB: You must received hundred of story ideas a day. Which ones stand out to you and what details are in that pitch that gets your attention?

BL: I have to admit I don’t write many stories off of cold pitches. Usually, I have to have a relationship with a publicist before I really read a pitch, because so many of the pitches I receive have nothing to do with what I cover. I’m mostly likely receiving a note that is being sent to dozens of journalists. But PR people I talk to frequently know the kinds of stories I like and what I’m not interested in writing about. They work quickly. They’re responsive. They’re helpful without being overly aggressive.

CB: Who are your best sources and why?

BL:  Most of my best sources are studio executives and producers. They’re people who think analytically about the media business and they’re able to look beyond the daily grind of who’s up and who’s down to see the big picture. Yes, they have an agenda. We all do. But they offer perspectives that are unique and deeply informed.

CB: Do you find that most of your sources come prepared to an interview? What tips can you offer PR professionals to help prepare their clients?

BL: They definitely know the kinds of questions that I will be asking. I usually give publicists a few broad details about my piece. However, the best interviews unfold more like a conversation. They don’t necessarily end up in a preordained destination.

CB: What are the top reasons a source or PR professional has broken your trust?

BL: I’ve had sources or PR people leak information to rivals after I’ve gone to them to get a comment or get confirmation. That’s a big red flag to me. It means they can’t be trusted. I’ve also had sources and publicists lie to me. That’s upsetting. I respect it when people say they can’t answer a question. I hate it when they lie. It’s a very hard thing to earn a person’s trust back.

CB: Do you find that since you cover the entertainment industry that it is more challenging to get people to go on the record?

BL: It’s one of my great frustrations. People are perfectly happy, even eager, to bash people or dish about something when their name isn’t attached to it, but they clam up when they know it’s on the record. In some cases, I do use anonymous sourcing. I wish I didn’t have to, but those stories are often more illuminating than the ones where everyone is on the record.

CB:It seems that the entertainment industry media has a fascination with gossip. How do you distinguish between gossip and fact?

BL: I don’t really think about it in those terms. My job is to report on what is truthful. Period. I find that “gossip” is a term that publicists will throw in your face when they don’t want you to print something.

CB: Anything else to add?

BL: Just don’t take it personally if I don’t respond to an email. We all get so many that I often miss them, so don’t be afraid to send a follow up note. I don’t mind. Really.

share001btn Why Brent Lang at Variety Wont Open Your Email
share save 171 16 Why Brent Lang at Variety Wont Open Your Email


It always amuses me when people make the argument that native advertising is a threat to PR. Arik Hanson‘s piece today in Ragan’s PR Daily claims paid content in the form of reporter-written articles will replace the role traditional public relations professionals play for their clients. What his piece fails to acknowledge is how public relations has evolved. Getting client quotes and features in publications like the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal are valuable and necessary to keeping a client happy, but that is a tiny part of the value delivered by a PR professional. Our value comes from not just being a “placement maker” but being a broad public relations advisor and strategist.  A similar argument was made back in 2008 by burgeoning social media “experts” who claimed that social media sites like Twitter would take over traditional PR. They were wrong then, just as Hanson is wrong now.

The PR industry shifts and changes just as other industries do. When PR supports business development it becomes a valuable asset of a larger communications and marketing team. Not in place of, but alongside, social media and native advertising. And it will continue to do so when the next ad craze comes along.

Clients will continue to use, value and need public relations partners to provide strategic counsel on activities far beyond just media placements. Those of us who are PR professionals develop message points when the media seeks an interview about a potentially controversial issue impacting an organization, secure speaking engagements for an attorney and advise them on which nominations to pursue and which fly by night nominations to ignore. We develop content for a firm’s website and educate firm leaders about not just the value of social media but how to truly leverage social media for tangible benefit. We train company executives in how to work with the media before reporter interviews and shape newsletters and client alerts to ensure they are reader friendly.

There is room for both native advertising and traditional public relations, and the former obviously does not replace the later.  That’s like saying will handle your high-value legal work.

share001btn Native Advertising Will Not Kill Public Relations
share save 171 16 Native Advertising Will Not Kill Public Relations


How Fresh is Your Content?

April 3, 2015

We love to repurpose content but it’s become more apparent that publications, whether legal or business, want it to be original. An editor of a well-read industry trade publication reminded me of that again today after I sent a blog post for consideration. The content I sent was written for the blog’s audience but the [...]

Read the full article →

Bad Kitty: A Radio Producer’s Impressions of PR Faux Paws

March 25, 2015

Austin Cross, an award-winning radio producer at NPR’s KPCC in Los Angeles posted an article on Muck Rack, “The 10 cats who are tired of   getting bad pitches from PR pros.” I got his permission to repost his content, which gives you an idea of what he thinks when you dump bad pitches into his litter [...]

Read the full article →

PR Agency Salaries in 2015

March 20, 2015

PR Talent, one of the largest public relations recruiting firms based in Southern California published a list today showing the average salaries for public relations professional in major markets. According to PR Talent President Jim Delulio, this list is not a scientific survey, but it is derived from his firm’s experience placing communications and PR [...]

Read the full article →

The Long-Term Benefits of Investing in Relationships

March 9, 2015

It is not worth debating who benefits more by having a good working relationship with reporters when you are a PR professional. But there is no doubt there are benefits to both sides. Reporters learn who to rely on, as does the PR professional.
Earlier this year I had an opportunity to offer an exclusive story, [...]

Read the full article →

California Bar Reminds Lawyers to Stop Being So Self Promotional

January 15, 2015

The California Bar has issued an opinion on the use of blogs as a vehicle to advertising their successes but anyone who writes a successful blog knows that self promotional material should be posted on a firm website or in a newsletter, not a blog.
According to a Law360 article today by Andrew Strickler, lawyers he [...]

Read the full article →

First Responders to Breaking News Make Client Alerts More Valuable

December 17, 2014

As I am monitoring the news about the change in the relationship between U.S. and Cuba, I received a client alert from Venable LLP’s International Trade Group. The authors of the alert recount some of the details that have already been reported by the media, but break down what the news means for companies that [...]

Read the full article →

Blogs Create Powerful Connections to the Media

December 16, 2014

UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh is a great example of the power of leveraging a blog as a media resource. In contrast to the lack of lawyers or firms commenting on the Sony Pictures hack, Mr. Volokh uses his blog: The Volokh Conspiracy, which is hosted by the Washington Post, as a way to effectively [...]

Read the full article →

Don’t Expect PR to Bring in the Business

October 17, 2014

At a recent new business pitch I was asked the question that almost always comes up with prospective clients: How quickly will I see new business from our PR investment? PR alone is not magical it is just one of many resources an organization must invest in for new business. Too often people expect PR [...]

Read the full article →