By Kate Fallis
There’s always been a strange kind of love/hate relationship between PRs and journalists. I’ll admit, when I worked in radio as a newsreader and reporter, I always thought it was a tad annoying when PRs would call up and flood my inbox with emails. When I left that role to move into PR, I certainly felt like my journo friends looked down on me as though I was a traitor! However, 8 months on in the broadcast PR industry, I’ve come to understand and appreciate the importance of the relationship between journalists and PRs.
Respect each other
Respecting each other is important and it needs to go both ways. If you’re rude to a journalist, they’ll remember it, and vice versa! When it comes down to it, journalists sometimes rely on us to get them the sources they need and they will always be very polite when they want something.
But they’re not just sitting around waiting for us to call or send over a press release, so when we do, we need to understand we’re coming into their space and may be calling at an inconvenient time. Never call regional radio on the hour for example, when they’re reading the news. They’re often under a lot of pressure and working to tight deadlines, so as PRs we need to understand that and not take anything to heart if they’re a bit short on the phone. We’ve all had the usual brush offs – “can you send that through to *insert generic email address here*?”, but just keep in mind that you would probably do the same if you were in their position. Best thing to do is try again the following day, perhaps at a different time, and see if the response is different.
For journalists, I think it’s important for them to remember PRs are doing a job too. We don’t just call for the fun of it – we’re pitching stories we think will be suitable for their news bulletins or programmes. I think sometimes journalists forget about that and think we’re pests! If they constantly dismiss PRs, they could be missing out on amazing content for their station now and in the future. While I wouldn’t expect them to spend 10 minutes on the phone with every PR, at least listening to a quick pitch is all it takes for us to feel respected.
We can work together
Working together is the best way to keep developing the relationship between journalists and PRs. Here at Shout! Communications, we often have journalists come and speak at events, explaining how we can work with them better, so the opportunities are certainly there. They do understand we have some great content available, but we need to target them in the right way. Here’s a few tips to keep in mind when pitching:
* Know your stuff – There’s no point offering a celebrity chef to a publication or station that only covers medical stories for example. You don’t want to look silly!
* Call at a convenient time – If you call when a programme is on-air, or when journalists are in their daily planning meeting, you’re surely going to get a rushed response, if any at all.
* Don’t pester – Email is a much less aggressive way to get in touch than constantly calling; when you do need to call to clinch the opportunity see the above point!
* Be relevant – Target journalists who will be interested in the story, whether that’s by the topic alone, the area it affects or the kinds of spokespeople you have available.
What we can do to stay valuable to journalists?
What are all journalists looking for? Decent, newsworthy content. If you give them that then you’ll always be an asset. Think about what you would be looking for if you were putting a programme or news bulletin together. If you don’t have all the necessary elements, maybe it’s time to go back to the drawing board for your campaign, or try even harder to get some great newsy elements. Case studies are a great way to get the attention of a journalist, particularly if you have someone who is based in their area. Regional statistics are also a great way to give a local peg to a national story. Of course, you also need to consider your spokesperson and how they will be perceived by the media.
Simply put, I think the best way to remain valuable and keep the respect there between journalists and PRs is to literally think like a journalist. Understanding each other’s worlds is important, so if you want to get a good response then keep that in mind! For more tips and understanding about broadcast PR download our E-book: A Guide to Media Relations .
Here at Shout! Communications everyone in our media relations team comes from a broadcast background, so we’re very used to dealing with journalists in TV and radio.
If you’d like to let us do all the hard work for your next broadcast campaign, we’d love to hear from you! Our co-director Catherine Bayfield heads up the media relations team and is always happy to brainstorm or have a chat – 0207 240 7373 or Catherine@shoutcommunications.co.uk.
Download our Guide to Media Relations e-Book here.