Considering how long the PR discipline has been around, it is still amazing to note the lack of understanding between flacks and hacks.
Unfortunately, there are no ride-alongs in a media truck PR students can take because of liability reasons. Likewise, no budding reporters can hang around and witness the inner workings of a PR agency to relieve boredom. That knowledge chasm serves as proof that the two industries should know more about one another. But how?
Your friends at PRNewser are doing our part to help both industries hold hands and sing. First, we discussed ‘5 types of reporters (and how to work with them).’ Then, we flipped the script and shared ‘5 types of PR people (and how to work with them).’
For this week’s #5Things: we offer 5 things journalists know about PR people that could surprise you.
1. Many PR pros are pretty much commissioned salespeople. Why do people loathe visiting a car lot? The vultures hovering overhead. Many journalists have that impression of us, whether you know it or not. There’s so much more to PR than pitching, but when it’s time to re-up on the contracts, the client morphs into Janet Jackson asking “What have you done for me lately?” Every time you call, they understand you are pressured for ink, and that provides a little bit of latitude. It’s your job to make the pitch matter. Bring it…and earn that
2. Many PR pros don’t understand how a newsroom works. Sure, you can try to get around the inner workings of what a reporter encounters on a daily basis, but for every senior PR type that gets it, there are a few hundred who don’t. See, “Did you have a chance to look at the press release yet?” One of the real travesties of higher education in this field is that there is no cross-training. It would help us address the perception that we don’t understand the jobs of the people we pitch.
3. They know how to write pitches better than you. This has nothing to do with majoring in AP-style and PR majors learning to wing it with diagrammed sentences. It’s because good writers know how to tell a story, not sell one. While PR students learn the history of Bernays, Lee, Burson, and Edelman, journalism students are taught how to write a concise story and make the 5Ws work for them. That’s what makes a good pitch — not a six-paragraph email.
4. Many of your clients don’t have a single newsworthy story to share. It’s one of the most unfortunate events in public relations — your director brings a client to the office that has nothing worth sharing. The product isn’t proprietary. The insights aren’t impressive. The widget has been done before. In many cases, the new biz pitch is the buzz. Regretfully, the lack of news is the buzzkill. Reporters know that. They understand you have a job to do, but they aren’t going to do it for you. Where there’s a will, there should be a way.
5. If pressured for proof, some PR pros run and hide. This is the clarion warning signal for mentorship in the agency. All flacks have encountered that one journalist who lures, showing interest in the pitch and then playing whack-a-mole with it. The problem is that they know your client’s industry better than you know the client itself. The majority of green PR folks doing the pitching will cower at the journalist who expresses doubt, but ignoring the calls won’t stop them; confronting the PR person will. We should be prepared to be interviewed before we land the interview. If we are not ready, the client will never get the time of day.