The roller-coaster relationship: PR and Journalism

I’m a lucky man. I’ve had the power and privilege to qualify as a journalist and work for one of the best-selling regional newspapers in the UK. Having moved on from that, I now work on the other side of the media fence that has been widely (and questionably) regarded as “the dark side” — PR.

It’s interesting and insightful to have worked in both circles, and something I try my best to make the most of. I’m not the most experienced journo or PR that’s ever lived, but I like to think I have enough common sense and know-how to hold a conversation on all things media relations. And it is this funny old thing, ‘media relations’, that I want to talk about.

For all of you out there wondering what the hell PR stands for, I’m sorry to say it does not stand for press release. It’s a common misconception; for as popular and well-known PR and PR agencies are, not that many people know what’s involved in the day-to-day and what is it exactly that we do.

Well, in a nutshell, we write things; press releases, features, case studies, reputation management, digital and new media, you name it, usually all on behalf of clients we’re representing. But the other part of our job is talking. A lot. To a range of weird and wonderful people we more than likely wouldn’t come into contact with if we were down the pub, having a bite to eat, or just generally enjoying life when away from the office. The writing and the talking usually go hand-in-hand when we’re liaising with the media. And this my friends, is where I would like to focus the blog: how is the best way to approach a journalist when looking to get something covered?

When I was a good-old journo getting 56 calls a day off PRs, I was always wondering, “Why are they so insistent, and which one do I want to ignore first?” (come on guys, I’m not the first and last reporter to think that). But then when I went into PR, I realised why and it all made sense. That relationship with the journalist is everything; contacts are key, and how you firstly initiate, then maintain that connection is vital.

Journalists are a gateway to your client’s promotional success, and it will always help to have good content with a strong news angle to present to them. Yeah sure, you can send an e-mail or even give them a call introducing yourself. But who is a journalist going to remember; that guy who’s trying to flog a dead horse at or a human being going out of their way to set up a face-to-face meeting and actually engage in a real-life, human conversation?

For as fast as technology and the world is developing, can someone please tell me anything better than a conversation between two people? You can keep your iPads, iPhones, and anything other techy contraption that begins with i, but having a conversation is an old-fashioned, yet proven way of being able to develop your skills not only as an employee working, but also as a person. And if you get an interested and intrigued journalist to speak with, then who’s winning?

Building those relationships is down to both luck and hard work. There’s a certain cynicism journos have about PRs, and vice versa. It’s a challenging industry to work in, with challenging people. You’re dealing with all kinds of different characters, personalities and potential stumbling blocks. Some journalists won’t give you the time of the day, that’s a fact right there. But imagine the euphoria you feel when one day, eventually, a press release you’ve sent across has been covered by the most unlikeliest of heroes; that journalist. Sensational stuff.

Some journalists will talk to you for hours long, some only a matter of minutes. But what I always try to remember is, we’re all people aren’t we? And if you’re representing a client with a great news story and it’s beneficial for both parties, then it sells itself, does it not? It’s a two-way process that you might not always be selling-in to. It’s great to have that conversation with them and get asking some questions yourself; what’s relevant right now? How can we angle this press release to accommodate what you’re looking for? How does this feature idea sound? What kind of case study are you after?

As I said, every day is a challenge, so it’s a good job I’m a determined soul. I’m well aware of the time and resource constraints of the modern reporter, it’s a testing time in journalism. That’s why it’s important to have strong stories to send their way. Just don’t send them an email first-off. Go and shake their hand and say hello.

Want to know more about PR and what we could offer you as a team? Email [email protected] to get in touch.

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