PR and journalism – A marriage made in heaven?
The often love-hate relationship between PR and journalist has fascinated me from the day I began my career. Every PR has encountered the full range of journalist ‘types’, from the old school hack to the pushy ‘I need it right now’ headline hunter.
Journalists may also have their well-publicised gripes with PRs and while we too have our different types and bad habits, we are certainly not the journalist’s enemy. The increasing pace of change within the media has meant that both journalist and PR need each other ultimately for the same goal – good copy that educates, entertains or informs.
The fact is that both PR and journalist can acknowledge someone that is good at their job and those that do, prosper. As with every relationship, both sides could do a couple of things to make things run smoother. Below are some simple tips that may help – throughout the overriding theme is ‘give-and-take’:
- Make an effort to find out which PRs handle the industry or topics you cover
- Suggest ‘off the record’ coffee meetings with PRs
- Go through PRs and not directly to spokespeople, which will always take longer
- By recognising and acknowledging a PR’s value, he/she is far more likely to help you gain access to the person you need in a timely and efficient manner
- If you hear of or receive a good pitch that isn’t your beat, suggest who the right journalist is. A PR may return the favour with an exclusive
- No story is worthless, dealing with it in a respectful manner will mean the PR comes back to you first the next time and this time it could be big
- Be resourceful wherever possible. Don’t assign news value to something that lacks it, but don’t ignore something just because it’s only worth two lines instead of 1,000 words
- Read and understand the media you are attempting to work with
- Make sure you know which journalists cover your client’s beat
- Don’t pitch suggestions for stories that journalists have already written
- Know journalist deadlines!
- Help journalists find stories that can supplement your client’s news
- Use ‘off the record’ exclusives appropriately where you can
- Get to know journalists (at all levels). Go for coffee, discuss your clients and any upcoming news for each including the names of spokespeople
- Help connect journalists to your colleague’s clients
- Ask them what kind of topics you can help provide sources for
- Find out what interests journalists outside of work. Could your client hold an event?
PRs that do not conform to the way a journalist operates will be left by the wayside with frustrated clients wanting answers. Like any business relationship, establishing a level of trust that leads to respect is imperative to get the best from both sides.
More and more good journalists have understood that they need PRs to gain access to information and spokespeople. This is as a result of the PR industry establishing trust with senior management and proving that it can add significant value at board level. Companies in the UK and internationally have put in place systems that channel their external communications, making rogue company spokespeople a rarity. The relationship between PR and journalist is set to be stronger than ever.