The Eternal Struggle: PRs Vs. Journalists…
What do Tom and Jerry, Sylvester and Tweety Pie and the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote have in common? As entertaining as their scrapes, chases and teases are, one doesn’t exist without the other – well, they would physically exist, but Jerry battering himself about the face with a frying pan is a much starker image to put in front of children.
Similarly, despite the industry you may find yourself in now, you’ll usually find yourself developing a similar symbiotic relationship with those both within and outside of your field. Much like those oft-celebrated toon-favourites, in today’s uber-paced news world PRs and journalists need to rely on each other more than ever before – whether they like it or not.
It’s a much lauded and usually fractious relationship that has writers screaming at an ever-ringing phone and PRs crying into their Boots Meal Deal, but maybe…just maybe…we can help.
If there’s something we at 4media Group know for certain it’s that internal and external relations are what make our profession tick. However, every relationship needs its metaphorical hinges oiled every now and again and we are constantly looking at ways to simplify matters and improve working partnerships – be they present or future relationships.
5 things we think you should remember if you are a Journalist talking to a PR:
1. “Pop it in an email and I’ll definitely take a look at it” or “I haven’t seen it in my inbox, can you send it again?”
We’ve all been here, its fine. Everyone’s busy – the nature of 24 hour news and faster paced production techniques dictate a finite amount of spare time per day.
Honestly, though – we’d rather just have the truth… “Sorry, I’m just not interested,” or “It’s not one for us.” Blunt, yes, but time-saving on both sides. One less e-mail in that bulging inbox and a definitive piece of feedback for the PRs.
2. Be patient.
Ok, ok, yes – we’ve just told you to save time, but we both share the enviable task of working in environments that are nearly always high-stress.
PRs have their clients to impress with glittering coverage, so finding that fine line between editorial and advertising can be tricky depending on who’s whispering in your ear.
That all-important coverage can’t be achieved without journalists and (again, we promise you) the vast majority of sell-in staff have the best intentions at heart. We’re all just pawns in this colossal game of chess, it’s always best to remember that.
3. Don’t put all PR’s into the same box.
People always want the bad news first, right?
Bad news: We know you’ve had a horrific experience on the other end of a PR call. We’re VERY sorry about this. Seriously.
Good News: We are not all the same. Most PRs genuinely want to help you and form lasting relationships without irritating you.
4. Different sides of the same coin.
Neither side of the argument might want to admit this, but the industries are extremely similar. Which would explain the constant tide of journalists moving into PR and vice versa. A closer working relationship might help journos get better content and hit deadlines more efficiently.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
As a journalist, how often would you pick up the phone and ask your PR contacts for something specific? Any good PR worth their salt will try and help even if they don’t have what you’re looking for straight off the bat. You should be able to rely on them as much as they rely on you.
5 things to remember if you are a PR talking to a Journalist
1. Do your research.
Tactics pay dividends. Simple.
It’s the most basic trick in the book, but work out who you’re pitching to before you do it. Nothing will generate a call hang-up faster than having no idea what the person you’re pitching is actually interested in.
A little extra personalisation, references to previous pieces of theirs you’ve seen, can really pep-up any pitch.
“Hi Ben, just saw your article on xxx, thought this may potentially be a follow up piece because of xxx”.
2. Stop chasing them.
Again, this is a game of fine lines and margins. Always follow-up…do not pester. Repeated calls to the same newsroom within hours is a sure-fire to get yourself on a black list – or even worse, just plain ol’ ignored.
If a journo wants a story you can pretty much guarantee they will run it, the first chance they get. Much like a relationship – you won’t need to chase them if they want to partner with you on a project.
3. Read the signs.
Listen, read and react to the tone of whoever you’re speaking to. We all know when someone’s trying to cut a conversation short – take the hint and mark them off your list if you think it’s a no. Go with your gut feeling and put your energy into other opportunities
4. Set realistic targets.
Sit down with your team internally and find out what their outcome is from the activity. What’s realistic? There is no use in flogging a dead horse in an attempt just to try and meet your internal criteria or because you haven’t appropriately managed your client’s expectations. Projecting your stresses onto a journalist will, almost certainly, spoil present and future relationships.
5. Ask for opinions and build a trusting relationship.
Most journalists know exactly what they want, don’t be afraid to ask for their input. If anything, it generates much easier feedback to provide a client with. Your pitch will then be an easy one because you know it’s what they asked for. It builds a relationship built on trust, you know what they will want or absolutely won’t and they’ll trust you won’t pitch them things they wouldn’t touch in a million years.
While these rules may not seem ground-breaking, they are easily broken and forgotten in a mix of sweat inducing deadlines and high pressured moments. Keep your cool and to remember whether you’re in PR or are a journalist that your best professional tool in your arsenal is your personality – don’t be afraid to let people see it. God forbid, even the people on “the other side”.
By Abi Cramp