The Reporter’s Not Your Prom Date

The Prom

After working almost two weeks on the creative slant for an interior designer’s upcoming feature for the local press, the last thing I expected was a call from her assistant telling me that the story needed to be put on hold. “The thing of it is,” she meekly explained, “Caroline has sorta been working on a similar story with another publisher and since they want exclusivity – well, uh, would it be okay if she held off on doing yours for a while so that theirs can run first?”

Why did I suddenly find myself flashing back to high school and hearing that the guy who asked me to the prom had apparently found a hotter date. “But hey,” he might as well have said (indifferent to the money I had already spent on my dress), “maybe we can go bowling or something in a couple months…”

In the years I’ve spent in the media industry, I’ve met no shortage of business owners that treat journalists as if they are either coveted trophies or simply placeholders that can be ditched guilt-free in a heartbeat. Just like a teenage girl without a steady beau, they spend every waking hour hoping that someone really popular will sweep them off their feet and into the spotlight. In the meantime, they’re indifferent to any wannabe suitors that are not only besotted with them but would also probably be attentive and show them a great time.

When it starts to become apparent that they’re just not going to get that date with destiny they’ve been dreaming of, they grudgingly accept a “lesser” invitation rather than not be seen at all. Their grumpiness, however, quickly manifests in snarky behavior toward the person who has offered to gallantly rescue them from being home alone on prom night with a carton of Chunky Monkey ice cream. They don’t return the date’s phone calls. When they do, it’s with the attitude that they’re being taken away from something much more important. To top it off, instead of enjoying any time on the dance floor once they arrive, they’re the ones most likely to sit there with arms folded and a grumpy scowl the entire evening.

Getting back to the interior designer, she had to have known that accepting two invitations for the same event would eventually require her to choose one over the other. The way she handled it, however, did far more damage from a credibility standpoint than she likely took into account when she decided to become a player.

In the first place, the weekly newspaper for which I contribute feature articles has treated her extremely well throughout the years she has been an advertiser. The competition – a magazine-style monthly – has never worked with her at all…and yet she is convinced it will be a marriage made in Heaven. Secondly, she was dishonest with both of us. Not until the question of exclusivity was raised was she finally forced to admit that she was already in a long-term relationship with someone else. Thirdly, isn’t it a bit of cowardice to use a messenger instead of making the call yourself?

While I’m professionally bound to accommodate whatever assignment decisions my publisher makes, on a personal level it’s pretty remote that hers is a business I’d ever want to hire. Based on a glaring lack of media manners, what assurance would I have that she wouldn’t abandon my kitchen remodeling job halfway through on the excuse that she just couldn’t say “no” to a guest stint on HGTV?

The takeaway lesson? If you pride yourself on never breaking promises to the customers that keep your doors open, the same courtesy needs to extend to your dates with the media.

Here’s the lineup of this month’s blogs by my guest contributors:

It’s All About the Conversation – by Shannon Mouton

How to Get More Eyes and Ears on Your Webinar – by Noelle Sterne

7 Cardinal Sins of Web Content Writing – by Melissa Rudy

The Truth About Money, Abundance and Success – by Wayne Porter and Mandy Wildman

8 Reasons Why Not Having a Blog is Hurting Your Business – by Amandah Blackwell