A call from Whitehall that got short shrift

Chris Grayling visits the papworrth trust
Chris Grayling visits the papworrth trust
Steve's baby daughter made amazing progress this week, or so his wife thought

STEVE CANAVAN: It was a lot of rattle over just a little roll

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I’m not one to moan – honestly! So forgive me please if I raise just a small gripe about PR agencies. One of the few banes of working for in a newsroom is the number of calls we get from people ‘following up’ a press release that has been sent to us.

The call will go something like this:-

‘Hello, newsdesk.’

‘Oh, hi, it’s Chantelle from Delishus Doggie Dinnaz here. How are you guys today?

‘Fine thanks. How can we help?’

‘Just following up on an email yesterday about our survey – did you know that 83.4 per cent of dogs in the Plymouth area prefer beef to chicken? – and wondered if that was something you guys might like to print?’

‘Sorry, we get hundreds of emails a day and I don’t remember that one. It wouldn’t make a story for us I’m afraid, and we’re in Portsmouth by the way.’

‘Oh, okay – I can find out what dogs there think if you like.’

‘No thanks.’

‘Okay, have a nice day!’

Alright, it’s not the end of the world to take such a call and it does allow the PR worker to tick the box that says, for feedback to the client presumably, that a follow-up call was made.

But when you’ve taken say the sixth such call of the morning – and parked an urgent task to do so – it does grate a little.

Not so bad in my book though as the call that a colleague took last week from a press officer (or should that be PR?) from the Department of Work and Pensions, who wanted to check that we had received a notification of the latest unemployment figures.

Yes, we had, she was told.

Then came the follow-up question: could she just draw our attention to the quotes they had sent from Employment Minister Chris Grayling and were we able to confirm that we were going to include them in our article?

Her suggestion was that things weren’t as bad as they might appear and that it would be helpful to carry the minister’s quotes to this effect.

I think it’s helpful of course for government departments to send information to The News – the primary source of information for people in the Portsmouth area – but we’re not keen to get involved in any sort of checking system as to what we are going to be using.

Presumably a count is made on how many publications carry the minister’s quotes. From the department’s view, the more the merrier I guess.

But I’m uncomfortable with public bodies spending money on people chasing us up to check how we’re writing our stories.