Much has been said about the relationship between PR pros and journalists – historically, some of the commonly used adjectives included: tense, suspicious, tenuous and strained. And while the PR/media relationship has changed a lot over the years, there is still room for improvement. As a PR pro there are ways you can make working with the media a painless experience.
PR pros need journalists – and vice versa
One of the biggest things for PR pros to remember when working with the media is that your relationship is mutually beneficial. Journalists need story ideas and sources to do their job. You need the media to share your/your clients’ messages with the public.
Now, of course, your motivation for telling a story may be different from the journalist’s motivation for sharing it. In order to work around this difference, keep the following in mind:
The media is a business. Journalists must achieve a level of readership/viewership/listenership that ensures a profit. Ad dollars account for much of this, but without an audience, there would no one to advertise to.
The media sees itself as the purveyor of truth. They deliver factual information, objectively and accurately.
Media are feeding the 24/7 news cycle – a big, no make that huge, task.
Many journalists are being stretched to the limit. Newsrooms are getting smaller and reporters are being asked to do more than ever before. Help to make their jobs easier by giving them good, newsworthy stories, packaged in an easy-to-understand format. Include video and visuals when you can to keep it interesting.
If you keep these four things in mind every time you work with a journalist, and position your pitches and materials accordingly, your needs and those of the media should both be met.
Establish a relationship founded on respect
Much like any other relationship, your relationship with journalists needs to be founded on respect. You’re both professionals – if you treat the journalists you work with respectfully, they will extend the same to you.
Follow these tips to ensure a respectful relationship with the media:
Do some research before you pitch a story to a journalist. Know what beat they cover, what they generally write about and what their target audience looks like. If you pitch stories outside these parameters, you risk becoming an irritant – and you may permanently damage your relationship.
Journalists are people too – when we talk about the media, we tend to think of it as a gigantic inhuman machine. But strip away the technology and you’ll find people just like you at the heart of the media. Always remember that they are doing a job. Anything you can do to make their jobs easier will be appreciated.
A reporter is never “off duty.” Reporters are “on” 24-hours per day. It’s not a 9-5 job.
Never deluge a news outlet with news releases to gain exposure. Flooding an office with paper only annoys journalists. A single, targeted news release is sufficient, more effective, and will be circulated if it is newsworthy.
In today’s world of digital media, use email pitches whenever possible. Only send your email once and don’t follow-up with a phone call. If a journalist is interested in your story, they’ll contact you.
Always respond to media inquiries as soon as possible, within an hour, if you can. Remember, journalists work within tight deadlines.
Don’t beg to have a story used. Don’t grumble about the treatment it gets. Don’t beg editors to cut, record, or save articles for you. Don’t beg for coverage by linking publicity to your advertising budget. These approaches only build resentment.
Don’t ask the media to kill a story. Asking an editor for a kill will only damage your relationship. The only way to keep unfavourable stories out of the media is to keep situations that produce bad news from happening. You may ask for a correction if a news outlet produces an inaccurate or misleading story.