No relationship is perfect. Even Disney acclaims to this fact when ‘Frozen’ female-lead Anna, ends up with Kristoff, rather than ‘pretty boy’ Prince Hans.
At the end of the film, Anna, Princess of Arendelle eventually ends up falling for Kristoff, a true outdoorsman with a penchant for ‘eating boogers because every guy does it’, living and eating carrots with his mangy reindeer and taking an occasional bath here and there, seems like a MIS-MATCH made in heaven. He is a bit of a ‘Fixer-Upper’ anyway.
But no, we won’t be reviewing the dynamics of an animated couple’s relationship today but rather, the fact that every relationship seems to have its own quirks now and again. This holds true for corporate relationships as well, and more importantly, the one that we’re going to address in this post: The relationship between a PR firm and its corresponding media counterparts, AKA journalists and reporters.
While journalism and mass communication is thought to include broadcasting, print, advertising and public relations, the relationships between journalists and public relations have a tendency to be viewed as strained in the communication world. The question is, is this only a perceived problem or is there actual animosity between journalists and public relations professionals?
The first part of this post is to address how the media can piss off a PR firm. And before critics come barging through our office door with accusations of biasness and defamatory remarks, I will also address the flip side of the coin, how a PR firm can piss off the media. In the end, what this post aims to achieve is a simple list of what and what not to do when you are in these industries, so that we can all strive towards a common goal; to tell compelling stories, provide client satisfactions and getting the job done.
Things the Media do to PR firms
Manners cost nothing and politeness is the new virtue. Journalists are tight for time – we get that. Sometimes PR firms may call in at an exceptionally bad time (or perhaps these journalists were just having a bad day) but that is no excuse for being rude. Even if you are simply not interested in our pitches, a simple ‘thanks but no thanks’ would indicate that we ought to hit our pitches right out of your ballpark. PR Pros do not set out to be pests; we are just real people trying to do our jobs.
Story Goes Livewire, but Gets Short-Circuited.
A journalist has posted a story, that’s great news, but how is the PR team supposed to promote it if they were not notified about it in the first place? As tempting as it is to Facebook/Google/Twitter/Internet stalk journalists, PR Pros can’t be on someone’s tail 24 hours at a time.
Going ‘Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride’ On PR Pros
Getting an elusive top-tiered business media interview is sort of like getting invited to the Olympics. If an article comes out from that, it’s like winning the gold medal as well. So when PR Pros secure an interview, we run back to our clients, getting them all excited and prepped. However, a few short hours before the actual interview, we realised that the journalist has ‘bumped’ our story, simply because he decided that our client was not up his alleyway. Do you want us to get a heart attack? Because that is how we get a heart attack.
Things PR firms do to the Media
Skydiving Into a Pitch Without a Parachute
This is a no-brainer because marketing and public relations rides well on personalization. There is nothing more distasteful to a journalist than receiving pitches from PR flacks that don’t do a smattering of research.
Google exists for a reason and a good one at that, for people to use it. PR Pros who take the time to really understand a particular journalist’s tastes, themes and interests afford them the attention that their pitch needs. Additionally, it would be viable for PR Pros to learn and understand exactly what they are pitching. Being able to answer basic questions about a client’s business proves that they have done their homework.
The Clingy Girlfriend Calling
Most people would agree that having one clingy girlfriend is more than enough. PR firms who continuously (and repeatedly) make cold calls to journalists are egging them in the wrong direction. Following up multiple times with a telegram, fax or pigeon carrier is not going to break through the clutter either.
Journalist or not, writing is an arduous task. It is difficult to remain focused if the lines are going off the hook every 5 minutes and from a PR firm no less (probably to call if you have received our pitch/release in the last minute). At the very least, the journalist will begin to see red.
Social Media Outreach
Our world is way too connected, and this is burning us out. A work/life balance is becoming increasingly challenging and everyone (PR Pros and Journalists alike) are making efforts to separate our personal and professional lives. Studies have shown that reporters who were pitched through social media were less likely to respond to such pitches. No surprise there, most people do employ their Facebook and Twitter accounts as a platform for entertainment and leisure. How would you like it if a sales rep were to sell a product through your Facebook account? To play it safe, just stick with emailing them.
No amount of good practice from either side of the industry will placate the other at a 100% and turn them into best friends. But that’s okay. Journalists and PR Pros alike exist to satisfy clients (and readers). Our job as a PR firm is to advise our clients on how best to ride these media rapids while a journalist’s aim is to report on events in a balanced fashion. Like it or not, both industries have a symbiotic relationship with one another. If PRs and journalists can accept that we need each other and move forward with mutual respect and understanding, then both of our jobs will become ultimately more satisfying.