PR journo relationships – Are you a pain or a pleasure?

Gosh we can be really annoying!  By “we” I mean us as publicists / PR consultants / comms managers / account managers – whatever you like to call the work you do.  And before you get upset with that statement, hear me out. 

This year in particular, I’ve heard more horror stories of publicists behaving badly than ever before!  There’s the one about the publicist that sent a news piece through, and then rang the journalist 20 times a day to confirm the story.  I’ve heard just recently, actually from a business magazine here in New Zealand about the beauty publicist trying to get a new product on their pages when clearly it’s outside of the genre of the paper.  And not only taking the “no sale” verdict from the EDITOR of the newspaper but ringing around the staff journalists to see if they can “squeeze it in”.

 Jeeze.

Is this what it’s coming too?  Are we honestly feeling that pressured to take on non-news proffering clients, or over-promising other clients that they’ll get HUGE exposure if they only sign with them?

And tonight, I had to laugh, after seeing a tweet from a senior journalist that today he’d now received a fourth copy of a press release.  That alone is a bit strange, but this latest copy was now marked “urgent”, as if this new statement was going to be the key to getting coverage.  Yep, true story.

So what’s going on?  What’s the issue here?  Why are we behaving in a painful manner and giving the rest of our colleagues a bad name?

We’re taught in PR school (probably) that relationship building (in conjunction with excellent message delivery methods) is key to a successful career in public relations.  But post school-days, it’s a rude awakening for the graduates who find that their first year in an agency doesn’t offer a corner office and an expense account!  And aside from that, there isn’t the time, nor the budget in usual situations to be wining and dining our journalist colleagues – as much as we’d like to!

Iain Hopkins (Editor of Human Capital Magazine) talks in his post about credibility.  The credibility of a print magazine with a team of professionals onboard, from the journalist to the editor, sub-editor, marketing staff, graphics professionals, sales managers – the whole shebang to produce the magazine you have in your hands, versus an online blog written by, well, potentially anyone!  So thinking about that credibility, that’s actually the key to a professional, working relationship in the public relations world too!

Given the opportunity, how many journalists and editors out there would prefer to have excellent and highly functioning working relationships with their publicists over a clearly visible kiss-arse drinking session at the pub?  Ok, some of you would prefer to be in the pub, and maybe that is part of it.  But to be able to put trust in a PR agency, that when a release comes through it’s going to be on-brand for the title, it will be newsworthy and it will be prepped and ready to go.  It certainly will not be the fourth attempt with “urgent” marked on it!

Of course, getting to that point with one journalist, let alone a thousand – how do you do it?  Work on your credibility, push the service levels higher; you’d never send rubbish through to your clients so why do it with your journalists?  On the other hand, we need to get better at bridging the gap between PR people and journalists.

In Australia, editor of Dynamic Business Magazine Jen Bishop, spotted that disconnect with PR professionals and journalists and created PRJournoLOVE.  An event specifically to get publicists and journalists in the same room – to socialise, but also to get to know each other – to speak frankly about working preference – to actually form those highly functioning relationships.  The PRINKS group too – a wider network again in Australia, but with a goal to encourage those in our industry and beyond, together and working towards that same end-goal. 

So, if we have these networking groups, we’ve upped our game and are more thoughtful in our actions of message delivery, we don’t put up stupid barriers between our clients and the media, the quotes we provide are real and not garbage – is there anything else we can do?

Probably a thousand things, certainly a good discussion topic going forward, but to finish off – how cool is this:

In the UK, there is a database of journalists that one clever PR person has put together.  It is delightfully large and not only does it have all the usual details our regular “lists” have, it also has deadline dates, genres each journalist specialises in, days and hours they are usually in the office, when not to contact them – it goes on further with personal details, birthdates, shoe size, clothing size, allergies etc.  Everything you could possibly want or need to deliver a message to the right people – it’s there and while I can hear you groaning that you’ve all got “one of those” – you absolutely do not because all that information was filled in, very willingly, by the journalists on the list.

Hands up who wants one of those, huh?

By Lou Draper

CEO of Rockstar PR, NZ

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