I’ve been covering fashion in Pakistan for the past 15 years. I started my career at Libas International (when I lived in Lahore) and since then have freelanced for Sunday Times, Newsline, Herald, Hello!Pakistan, Glam, Instep (where I also worked for four years) and of course, Images at Dawn where I do most of my fashion writing these days. Oh, and I’ve also written several features for Outlook India as well as The Express Tribune. I do think that’s a pretty decent portfolio, especially since I’ve been prolific and people tell me, fairly decent in what I’ve written. It would be fair to say I’ve been around longer than most PROs ie Public Relations Officers around.
So then, the call I got yesterday from a certain designer’s PRO (and I won’t name him because he’s talented and I’m fond of him) was a bit of a turn off. This is how it went…
PRO: (After introductions)…can you suggest how we get a shoot printed in Instep?
Me: Yes, you have to call the editor and it’s quite simple.
PRO: Oh, can you tell us how to get published in Images?
Me: Again, you’ll have to speak to the editor.
PRO: Don’t you edit any of these publications? I had heard that Aamna Isani was a hot shot journalist, a baree toap cheez (which I can translate as a big cannonball)…
Me: I’m afraid you’re mistaken. I just write for these publications. Bye…
Now, don’t get me wrong. I didn’t take offence but found the conversation humorous as well as unprofessional. So I thought I’d make every new, young (and evidently professionally void) PRO’s life easy…
1. Brush up on your facts before you call someone, especially. At least know where they work. It is part of your job to have an updated media list at least. How many times have PROs sent my invites to Instep or Images and then expressed great surprise when I didn’t get them. “But I sent them to Images. Don’t you work at Images?” Uh, no. I don’t. Welcome to the word ‘freelance’.
2. Do not call journalists (especially those who have more experience than you) for their email addresses and postal addresses over and over again. You should have their contact numbers, emails, twitter handles, blog names etc in your data. It’s very easy information to access and even if you’re really new (and dumb), ask ONCE. There is no justification to ask the same address over and over again.
3. Send invites to the right address (seems like a no-brainer, right?) and then call to follow up. I freelance and usually get my invites home. If they are sent to a publication I am writing for, then my name is specified on the envelope. The editors cannot be expected to guess or play charades.
4. Do not mis spell names. My name is Aamna Haider Isani. Not Amna, Aamina, Aminah, Aaminah and not Ehsani, Issani, Essani etc. It’s fairly simple. When in doubt, google. The easiest thing is to find the person on Facebook. Oh, but please don’t send a friend’s request while you’re at it. Facebook is for friends, not professional dealings.
5. Do not, I repeat DO NOT call after work hours. I have gotten calls from PROs as late as midnight, when of course they go unattended. Midnight calls are permissible to friends only. And only a few people qualify.
The list is endless…facebook invites don’t hold any credence. At least send an e-invite. Send event pictures ASAP f you want them blogged or written about in the daily papers. Who has the time to hound and run after you for them? Basically, dear PROs, take a course in PR before you decide to take responsibility for some poor soul’s media handling. Learning on the job isn’t the best of ideas.