July 30, 2014
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Damn it! We got scooped PR musings

Let me start by saying I understand these things happen. I’m not upset, and I’m not blaming anyone. After all, nobody got hurt. No tears were shed. But when a local reporter gets the scoop on RIT news before I do, well, you can bet it becomes the source of some concern.

All of us at University News congratulate Ashok Rao on his appointment as dean of the E. Philip Saunders College of Business. Rao joins RIT from Babson College in Massachusetts, and he will assume his new post on Feb. 1. We’ve been preparing for the announcement of a new dean for many weeks, and we knew the time was fast approaching.

Matt Daneman, the higher education reporter for the Democrat and Chronicle informed us just how fast. His call to our office stating, “Hey, I hear you have a new business dean,” prompted a sense of disbelief. But a quick call to a co-worker inside the Saunders College confirmed the news. The announcement from administration to Saunders faculty and staff was delivered by e-mail, but University News was inadvertently left out of the loop. Okay, time to scramble!

Within about an hour, we were able to piece together and distribute a news release formally announcing Rao’s appointment. Obviously, Daneman’s scoop forced our hand. These kinds of news releases often take days, even weeks, to complete. Various stakeholders need to review and revise specific verbiage, and multiple drafts of a document are rarely out of the question. This is indicative of the “slow drip” that is frequently public relations.

That’s why, after it was all said and done, I prefer how this announcement went down. Sure, it was a bit frantic, but it was over in a flash. It’s a bit like ripping off a scab (sorry for the imagery). The pain can be intense, but it’s relatively short lived. And, like I said, no tears were shed.

 
  1. Justin Thorp
    Nov 21

    Paul do you think this exposes any flaws in the way press releases get sent out?

  2. Paul
    Nov 21

    Not really, Justin. The process is what it is. And, actually, I'm sure it's more cumbersome still in the corporate world. All in all, it's a credit to the reporter who has taken the time to cultivate a variety of sources across campus, rather than wait for the PR machinery to feed him the news. That's a great question though.

  3. Mike Saffran
    Nov 21

    I agree with Paul. The flaw, in this instance, was an internal communication breakdown. At other times, the news simply happens so fast, there’s no way to avoid being “scooped.” I recall an incident, about six years ago, when I took a phone call from a TV reporter asking about an incident in a residence hall. I told her I’d look into it—and just as I was hanging up the telephone, I overheard my colleague Vienna asking Laurie (who was our boss at the time), “Do you know anything about . . . in Nathaniel Rochester Hall?” (Vienna had received a call from a different reporter.) There actually had been an incident that prompted residents to call 911 (as they should have)—leading reporters to get the “news” from their police scanners. We knew about it pretty quickly—thanks to TV news reporters. Sometimes that’s just how it happens (particularly in a crisis situation such as that one).

  4. John Follaco
    Nov 21

    Paul makes a great point. Kudos to Matt Daneman on some superb reporting. And if you're lurking out there, Matt, feel free to come on in and take a bow!

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