Relationships Between PR and Journalists Have Changed Forever

Guest post by Amanda Guisbond @agbond

125795548I came across this Ragan’s PR Daily blog post on ways PR pros can cultivate relationships with reporters vs. just cold pitching them all the time.  It reminded me of when I first started in PR and got briefed by a colleague on what it takes to earn the media’s trust; to be a valued resource and not just a “flack” (I still cringe at this horrible term to describe our profession).  Back then we called it the rule of three – give the reporter two things of value to THEM before one request of value to YOU.  This might be a quick note that said, “Great article today! Loved your points about X and X” (full stop) or “Hey did you see the news on X? Thought you’d be interested” (again, full stop) before ever pitching them on a client or idea.

It’s been only four years since that first conversation but still, much has changed across the media landscape, including: how reporters generate and distribute stories; which publishing houses are thriving vs. failing — and whether they offer paid or free content; and the types of headlines that get the most eyeballs.  Just this week I heard someone talk about the popularity of “list articles,” identifying them as “listicles,” and I felt my mind expand an inch more.

If I were to sit down with a PR newbie today and show them the ropes of media relationships, here’s what I would say that is different from my first go in 2008:

  • Don’t be afraid:  Reporters need you as much as you need them – sometimes more if you’ve got an awesome, sought-after client.  They are being challenged to churn out content FAST and they’re often relying on others (you) to provide insight, quotes, access to spokespeople and in some cases, help educate them on a complicated or new (to them) topic – all by deadline. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship so don’t be afraid to make that first contact – you might be surprised.
  • Get connected:  I don’t advise blindly connecting to every reporter you’ve ever heard of on LinkedIn, but after that first client briefing or email trail, connect with them on LinkedIn.  Even easier, follow them on Twitter or Google+ and subscribe to their feed.  My best media contacts are people that I’m connected to on LinkedIn and I truly believe that sometimes, because they see my face pop up on their news feed, they remember to reach out with a source request.
  • Reporters need to network, too:  More than ever, reporters are being measured by their social networks and how many people – hits – they can get to their stories and to then go back and share with their own networks. That is stressful! That being said, reporters know PR pros tend to be outgoing, well-connected individuals, and they may lean on you to broaden their reach.  I’ve connected a few reporter “friendlies” with other PR pros for stories that have led to success for all involved.  I also sometimes send a reporter, if they’re in my region, a link to a networking event they might find interesting or that I’m attending.
  • Freelance writers rock:  And there’s more of them then there were four years ago.  Get in good with a freelancer and you won’t regret it – these are smart, driven and often very KIND people who at any given point could be writing something super niche, for a “smaller” outlet, and then next thing, contributing regularly to a column in a major business publication.  Because of the nature of operating solo and/or remote from the main news hub, freelancers are more likely to reach out with a media request and ask for help.
  • Share the S*** out of their news — and not just when it’s yours:  You have a reporter friend and they just wrote about your client and you’re PUMPED so you like it, tweet it, send it to your Mom (don’t lie, you’ve done it).  Your reporter friend appreciates this because they want more web traffic to their article and in many cases today, their boss is counting how many hits, RTs, comments, etc. that article receives.  On several occasions I’ve actually had reporters email me after coverage hits to let me know “Yay! It got a bunch of comments” or “Wow! The story got X number of click-throughs” and then thanked me for sharing it on LinkedIn or Twitter.  But it’s not just YOUR coverage that should be shared – like any solid PR pro you want to be consistently reading your media “friendlies” work and sharing it with your network.  Reporters recognize this and will not forget you when it comes time to write another story.

To that PR newbie I would then say:  At the end of the day, if you’re doing your job right, a reporter will not only see you as a resource, but as an industry peer.  And that makes public relations more valuable, powerful and better in terms of what we can offer our clients.

What advice would you offer today’s new PR professional about working with media that you might not have four, five, ten years ago?



Posted on: August 27, 2012 at 9:47 am By Todd Defren
16 Responses to “Relationships Between PR and Journalists Have Changed Forever”

 

Comments
  • Rachel says:

    I am a PR major, still in college and still learning new things to the PR world everyday. I had to take a print beat class for my major which required me to become the reporter. I had first had experience on what it is like for the reporter and what they are looking for when writing a story. I am not at all saying that I know exactly how it is, but I found out very quickly how important it is for reporters to network. Also I would have loved for others to reach out to me with information on what to write. As much as I loved digging for information, I loved just as much if someone just game me the information. You just have to be sure that the reason for distributing that information is pure. That is the biggest thing I took away from being a reporter, even if it was only for a semester.

  • Jeszlene says:

    As a PR newbie, I find with social media, the lines between journalism and PR are increasingly blurry. For example, I’ve been asked to work for a blog as a writer and to network with other bloggers. A lot of my friends also have jobs that blur that line. My relationship with both the PRIA (Australian professional organization for PR) and Alliance (Australian professional organization for Journalist) are also equally strong. I have also been told that work experience in newsrooms are encouraged for PR students, both for the knowledge and network. Don’t see as much of a divide these days except maybe for a title.

  • Great post – social media has definitely changed the game in terms of the way journalists expect PR people to interact with them. We did some research around this to find out which digital channels journalists like to be contacted through, which you can read here: http://www.text100-uk.com/2012/03/how-to-engage-journalists-through-social-media-infographic/

  • With the ever-shrinking nature of resources the media can provide itself, it is now more important than ever for PR pros to offer more tangible assistance. Of course you’ll set up an interview with the CEO, but are you willing to provide b-roll to TV, submit a (by-lined) column from an expert, and supply high-res photos on a tight deadline?

    One thing that hasn’t changed is the need to always answer the ‘what’s in it for them?’ question, them being your audience(s). Come up with as many legitimate reasons someone would be interested in your story as you can for why the organization you represent wants the coverage and you’ve got most of media relations figured out.

  • Tony DeFazio says:

    This is an excellent post. Accurately reflects the dynamics of the media today and, most importantly, how to foster relationship with journalists. The biggest point here is the first. Reporters need PR folks more than ever. Shrinking editorial staff means reporters have to do more. Less time to fact check. Less time to track down sources. Establish value by recognizing their reporting, providing quality sources and be there when they need you. Follow this prescription and your clients will get press.

  • Jason says:

    Very interesting point of view. Teaming up with PR is a great idea for companies, even franchise companies. Thanks for sharing.
    Jason@ Franchise Public Relations

  • Bana says:

    Love it. It’s amazing how a simple RT or comment can build rapport with reporters. And social media has made it so much easier to follow journalist friends. I make sure to add all of their Twitter handles to my TweetDeck, and then read their posts pop up throughout the day. It helps to keep apprised of their work. Great post!

  • Good stuff. I would only add that because the media needs to generate so much content these days, they are often willing to take your photos, videos or suggested social media posts. Offer them as a way to help the reporter. But only after asking if they are interested in this content.

    Appreciate the tips!

  • roger draper says:

    Practical insights, absolutely. PR skills have changed in recent years right along along with the tools and technology, but some things remain the same: you still have to know the news business and you have to deliver the makings of a useful story.

  • Daniel says:

    Good stuff, especially the bit about freelancers. They often slip under the radar of most PR pros.

  • Stu Opperman says:

    With the ever-shrinking nature of resources the media can provide itself, it is now more important than ever for PR pros to offer more tangible assistance. Of course you’ll set up an interview with the CEO, but are you willing to provide b-roll to TV, submit a (by-lined) column from an expert, and supply high-res photos on a tight deadline?

    One thing that hasn’t changed is the need to always answer the ‘what’s in it for them?’ question, them being your audience(s). Come up with as many legitimate reasons someone would be interested in your story as you can for why the organization you represent wants the coverage and you’ve got most of media relations figured out.



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