Stalkers. Hagglers. Pests. As a public relations professional who is paid to understand public perception, I’m well aware of the reputation of our profession.
The age-old rivalry between journalists and PR is one we hear about often, whether it’s through a dreaded “PR pet peeve” article, tweets from reporters or even inquiries from clients. I, however, find the rivalry a bit petty and feel that the public misses out on part of the story—a big part of the story. Regardless of arguments to the contrary, reporters rely on PR people and most are not afraid to admit it. Our profession was created to facilitate the rapport between companies and media, and the majority of the time, we do just that.
There are times when we screw up, of course: you may have seen the recent New York Times article criticizing a PR agency for its poor handling of a client’s announcement, and DigiDay also recently published a list of PR habits that drive reporters nuts. Every time one of these articles goes viral, the Eastwick office is abuzz with conversation on the nuances of PR. At this point, we have a pretty good idea of what to avoid in order to keep the peace. However, I’m always left wondering what the other side of the equation is—how and when does PR help reporters?
That question in mind, we decided to reach out to some of the journalists we’ve worked with over the years to hear their tips, tricks and examples of how PR can serve as a resource instead of a pain.
Here are some of our favorites:
Wade Roush, Xconomy:
“A great PR company picks clients who have great stories to tell, and then helps them arrange and burnish those stories so they’re even better and gets them out to the right people. They don’t pick companies with incomplete or non-compelling stories and then try to convince reporters and others that the clients are more interesting than they actually are. I think picking unexciting clients, or not “breaking up” with your clients after you’ve lost interest, is probably the root cause of half of the frustration and misery in the PR industry. Also, always include a city/location and a Web address for the company you’re pitching.”
Tyler Loechner, MediaPost:
“I value a PR person that is willing to come to me with an off or on the record comment about something without me even asking. That sometimes helps spark ideas. I also enjoy PR people that are willing to talk about something other than work in emails. Business at the top of the email and personal at the bottom, so to speak. It doesn’t have to be all the time, but from time to time is nice.”
Barb Mosher Zinck, Digital Tech Diary:
“If you offer me suggestions for ways to focus on the news that are slightly different, it helps me see a good way to cover it (I may not use your idea, but it gets the creative juices flowing). Someone sent me a pitch with two or three alternative topics I could interview an expert on – I liked that.”
Christina Farr, VentureBeat:
“We all hate headshots. The first thing I’d recommend when you get a new client is to get the founders together and take some photos. Readers will immediately want to click if the person I’m writing about appears to be a real person that has a life. Also, I prefer to have a one on one conversation with the source. I find I get a better quote when the conversation is natural and the source and I can create a relationship that is not mediated by a third party.”
Ryan Joe, AdExchanger:
“Make sure you read our magazine/blog before pitching. A few days ago someone sent me a pitch to review a toothbrush. Also, don’t pitch an ’exclusive’ that isn’t an exclusive. For instance, if a product was made generally available a week ago, don’t come at a reporter offering it as an exclusive story. When that happens, I tend to think the product didn’t debut so well and your client is desperate to scam some additional publicity.”
Harry McCracken, TIME:
“I don’t think I can overstate how appealing it is for pitches to be brief and to the point and free of attempts to be chatty or clever.”
There’s no excuse for lazy PR. Casting a wide net and waiting for someone to bite is careless and deserving of the frustration it causes. That said, mutual respect and a realistic understanding of the challenges of each other’s positions can go a long way. So, journalists and PR people, I think it’s time to drop the rivalry and begin a conversation about the benefits “good PR” can have for both sides.
PR pros and journalists: what does good PR mean to you? Do you have any tricks on how to foster relationships? Leave it in the comments.