I have been working in corporate marcomms and PR for four years now, but I have to admit I will always be a journalist at heart. It’s what I spent four wonderful years studying at university and what I enjoy the most. As a journalist-turned-PR professional, I have experience and insights on both sides of this dynamic, and that helps me build better relationships with the media.
Let’s be honest, not all journalists and PR people get along. We are actually known to harbor some resentment towards each other, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Us journalists and PR representatives can’t do our jobs without the other, we can add a lot of value to each other’s work.
My colleague Karen already gave some tips on working with the media from her PR perspective, so I decided to outline a few extra tips to work with journalists based on my own background:
1. Be honest
I would say this is the most important principle for PR people dealing with journalists. Just stick to the truth and don’t mislead them. Not only could it potentially destroy your chances to be featured now, but it could also destroy any possible collaboration in the future – not just with that specific journalist but with others as well. We tend to know each other and we do talk about how annoying certain brands can be.
2. Don’t be afraid of rejection
Journalists get numerous pitches every day so it might take them a few hours, or even days, to acknowledge your email. And when they do respond, it might not be with the reply you were expecting of them. They have a long list of stories to write and they might not be able to cover yours as quickly or as in-depth as you wish.
3. That said, don’t hesitate to reach out again
Just because a journalist can’t work with you right now doesn’t mean they won’t want to do it in the future. Keep pitching good, relevant content and chances are you will get a solid relationship out of it at some point.
4. Respect their personal accounts
I’ve heard many horror stories about how my journalist friends have been harassed on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or their personal email account by PR professionals. They are writers, that’s their job, and they put themselves out on the world for that – but pitching them anywhere other than their designated work email, social media and/or phone will not get you a story. I can assure you.
5. Share and engage with their content
Changes are you will find those media contacts you are interested in on social media. Following them and engaging with their posts every now and then might not cut it. Invest some time in reading their material and getting to know them: what is their style, what do they like, what do they don’t like, etc. Be genuine, not self-serving.
6. If you’re unhappy, be graceful about it
There might be times when you get unfavorable press, so deal with it gracefully. If the unflattering piece isn’t true, write to the author and (calmly) let them know why they’re mistaken and provide facts and proof to fix it. If the content of the news is true, contact them anyway and let them know you understand why they wrote their story the way they did and say you are okay with it. Use the opportunity to clarify a few points so they can understand you better next time.
It’s pretty simple: journalists are not a tool you simply use to promote your story. They don’t HAVE to do it, so don’t treat them like they do. Like I mentioned before, journalists benefit from PR reps too, so, if you are decent and professional, they will gladly hear you out and see if you both can work something out together.