The PR’s perfect journalist

I’m sure there has been a fair few posts on this in the past, but it is something that continues to be discussed between myself and colleagues, if only in a tongue in cheek manner.

So what is the PR’s perfect journalist?

The easy answer could be ‘the one that publishes everything I send them’.

But I’m not sure that it is as simple as that. I can envision that should that ever happen the already declining state of journalism would slip even further.

And after all, it’s nice to have to fight (at least a little) for that key piece of coverage and know that you’ve done a good job for your client.

So, here’s my vision of the perfect journalist – if you have anything to add, or indeed take away – leave a comment and let me know!

1. HONEST TO THE POINT OF RUDENESS

I’m not adverse in the slightest to a bit of rudeness – and many journalists have a reputation as being a bit surly. But honesty really is the best policy when it comes to PRs. If we send you a press release, and it’s not of use, replying with a simple ‘NO’ would save everyone involved so much hassle, not to mention eliminating the need for those annoying ‘did you receive my press release….’ phone calls.

2. FEEDBACK IS WELCOME

There is one regional journalist I work with on a regular basis who is well versed in the above, but is in fact one of my favourite journos. They nearly always reply when they receive a press release – whether it’s ‘great story – thanks’ or ‘too weak, not using it’. It’s all valid feedback and will help us to define what to send you next time.

3. VALUE OUR SKILLS

Although of course there are some (very) bad PRs out there, many of us are ex journalists, or have been working in the industry for years and know what works and what doesn’t. Journalists who take the time to get to know their decent local PRs are the ones that benefit from exclusive stories, tailored features and being offered the first bite at the cherry when something really good comes along.

4. DON’T MAKE PROMISES YOU CANT KEEP

If you don’t know when you can use the story – don’t make up a date – just say you don’t know! The worst thing is telling a client when to expect coverage and then having to explain, tail between your legs, when the coverage doesn’t appear.

5. DON’T PRETEND YOU HATE US THEN BEG FOR STORIES

Everyone knows that there is a love hate relationship between PRs and Journalists, but the fact is, and apologies for sounding like a naff 80’s film, but we need each other. You get some great stories from (some of) us and in return we get great results for our clients. Nurture relationships with a few key PRs and you’ll always have someone who will go out of the way to get a story for you when you’re suffering from the dreaded ‘slow news’ day.

6. TELL US WHAT YOU WANT

Need a case study or a quote from a reputable source? Contact us! If we haven’t got the clients ourselves, if we’ve got the time we’ll try and point you in the right direction. After all, the ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ approach is always going to work.

7. WE’RE NOT PSYCHIC

There are a million posts out there that say you shouldn’t phone a journo, you shouldn’t send attachments on emails, and you shouldn’t do this, that or the other. But the fact is everyone is different and if it’s a PR you’re going to be dealing with on a regular basis tell them how you like to be communicated with. Do you prefer emailed press releases, a short synopsis or a phone call outlining the story? Perhaps you even prefer a Tweet or a Direct Message? The best PRs will listen and make sure they do what works best for you.

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5 thoughts on “The PR’s perfect journalist

  1. Emma Thomas says:

    Enjoyed this little gem of wisdom very much Brooke.

    If only all PRs were like you, rather than being like the deightfully enthusiastic PR who called me 1 minute before my 5pm bulletin on budget day, asking me if I’d like to run a story on train timetables in my agenda.

    I’m not entirely sure where they hoped in depth analysis of the 17:30 to Milton Keynes would sit next to VAT increases and pay freezes. Grrr!

    I’d like to think my response fitted more into your quality No.2 ‘Feedback is Welcome’, but I expect it probably slid hideously into No.1 ‘Honest to the point of rudeness.’

    The End. Journalist rant over.

  2. brookenolan says:

    That sort of things makes me embarrassed to be a PR!

    It should be a collaborative approach between PRs and journalists and I think you can spot the decent PRs a mile out.

    It doesn’t help when PRs like that one have no concept of what a ‘news agenda’ is!

  3. nalts says:

    Thanks to publicityguru and heather condon (wiley) for helping me find this one. Really well put, Brooke. Having started my career on the journalist side, I remember thinking of PR professionals as sales people. They’d push before asking about any questions or rapport build, they rarely asked what time of the week “I’d come up for air,” and sometimes they’d scream at me. Then on the PR side, the biggest pet peeve is the “OMG we’re running with this… (10 minutes later) …. never hear from them again.” Yeah that’s annoying, and erodes the journalist and their employer.

    • brookenolan says:

      Glad you enjoyed the post. And there are certainly PRs who do that – and it’s incredibly frustrating. The first question to a journalist should always be ‘Is now a good time?’ or ‘Do you have a few minutes?’. I think the PR v Journalist fight is going to be a conversation which will be going on for many years to come!

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