PR + Journalists: We Can’t All Get Along – But We Can Try (For Our Clients’ Sake)
“Can’t we all just get along?” Public relations professionals ask that question everyday when it comes to their relationship with journalists. There are certain things that PR people do that drive journalists to hit delete and vice versa.
But, let’s face it— we need journalists and journalists need us. So, how can we maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with respect? Last month at The University of North Carolina’s “The Future of Business Journalism” event, a panel of veteran and current journalists as well as corporate communication pros discussed this key issue.
Although the speakers came from different backgrounds and companies, they all stressed the same things and here’s what they had to say:
- There’s less time to get things done–for both journalists and PR people. Nowadays, reporters have a small window of time to complete their stories. With that comes pressure. The same goes for us and the companies we represent. However, some company executives don’t understand “hectic journalism” and the need to turn things around quickly, while some reporters don’t realize that it takes awhile for a company to sign off on one comment because it needs to go through multiple departments. A two-sentence quote from a company might take a whole work day to get it legally or compliant approved. These time constraints cause both parties to misunderstand and assume the other side is being uncooperative.
- Facts are important. One of the panelists mentioned how press releases are so “full of jargon” these days, which leads to superficiality. This makes a reporter’s job even more difficult. Where are the facts? Where is the news? When companies issue press releases, they should make sure the context is correct and robust.
- Did I say build relationships? We can’t remind ourselves enough. Each panel member came back to this throughout the discussion. We often forget to include some kind of human interaction and interpersonal skills in our media relations. Perhaps with such reliance on e-mail and other text-based modes of communication, we forget we’re talking to people.
Let’s step back from our frantic days and take the extra minute to develop a mutual understanding with journalists. We can strengthen our media relations strategy and ultimately do a better job for our clients.
- Sally Beatty, senior director of Pfizer’s Policy, External Affairs and Communications division
- Rik Kirkland, director of publishing and a principal at Mckinsey & Company
- Stephan Labaton, partner at RLM Finsbury
- Anne Marie Squeo, managing director at 30 Point Strategies
- Peter Lauria, business editor for Buzzfeed
- Kevin Shinkle, deputy business editor of The Associated Press
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