It continually amazes me the wide-range of treatment I receive from PR people at companies. I used to think it was because MMORPG.com just doesn't have the traffic of some of the larger, super-gaming hub-sites, but some dealings I had a couple of months ago made me realize that it's just the quality of the PR guys.
So far my feeling is that in house PR or marketing is much more interested in making sure that the company is well represented, while contract PR seems to let things slip by.
For example, Logitech - a gigantic company for peripherals - treated me with much respect and seemed honestly interested in my feedback. I almost fell over when I opened the door the day after speaking to them to find the review sample on my doorstep. They overnighted to me! This is a huge company, and they don't care if we aren't Gamespot or IGN, they treated us with respect anyway. Of course, Logitech has in-house PR.
Some other companies - who I will not name - promise review samples and leave me in the dark, wondering if they have even been sent. I get bounced from PR rep to PR rep, like the smelly, fat guy nobody wants to sit next to for too long, and I rarely get updated on anything. These companies all use contract PR.
And then there are the really horrible companies, who can't even be bothered to respond to my lowly emails. How dare I even attempt to contact them! I am going to name these people, since I don't have to maintain any sort of working relationship with them: EVGA, BFG, Sapphire, Leadtech - thanks for nothing guys. It's too hard to even send a canned response? A simple "Thanks for the interest, but we can't oblige you at this time" would be nice. Hell, I've spent thousands on BFG products, you'd think they would at least be nice enough to acknowledge that I sent an email, if not to appease a journalist, then to appease a customer! I have no idea if these companies have in-house PR or if they contract out, but if I was to bet, I would go with contract.
I think this is indicative of the same issues I run in to with my other job: It's a department that is usually an afterthought, just like Customer Service. Oh, s**t, now we have this great product, a fantastic price point, a great marketing campaign, but how do we go about getting the word out so that publications and reviewers can make us look good? How do we let people know we're a company they can trust to deliver the goods? Ah, who cares, let's just contract someone.
It may sound like an easy solution, but it seems like you end up with PR reps who don't care so much, since they have other customers as well. Maybe it's not even that they don't care, maybe it's that they are spread too thin. Whatever the reason, it makes the company they are representing look bad, which is the exact opposite of the reason they were hired in the first place!
Perhaps companies should take a small step back, evaluate the cost of the contract PR, and think about hiring someone to do the job in-house. One person making you look good to all your customers is worth so much more than an entire team of people making you look indifferent or incompetent.