To better the PR pro/journalist relationship, avoid these common mistakes.
Public relations professionals and journalists have a symbiotic yet strained relationship at times. As a PR veteran who worked with the media for over 15 years, I've encountered recurring habits among reporters that annoy even the most experienced PR pros.
Though many journalists are a pleasure to work with, a few key etiquette tweaks could go a long way toward smoothing out communication.
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1. Not reading press releases in their entirety
The most frustrating journalist behavior is not thoroughly reading a press release before reaching out with questions. Often, the answers they seek are readily available if they simply review the release in its entirety. Reporters may be busy, but taking an extra five to 10 minutes to review the release helps avoid redundant follow-ups.
2. Expecting 24/7 availability
Unlike journalists who often work odd hours on tight deadlines, PR professionals generally maintain more traditional business schedules. While we try to accommodate urgent media requests, it's not always possible to immediately respond. Reasonable notice and maintaining communication within regular business hours shows respect for our time.
3. Not allowing enough lead time
PR reps juggle multiple clients and projects simultaneously. So, when a reporter contacts us at the last minute expecting a quick turnaround, it puts us in a difficult position. Providing at least a few days lead time allows us to properly prepare. We understand breaking news has short notice, but general stories can be planned for in advance.
4. Requesting too many extras
Providing basic information like images and interviews is part of our job. However, some reporters seem to continually ask for “just one more thing” beyond the agreed-upon scope. Draw the line somewhere when it comes to additional requests.
5. Not helping with brainstorming
Often, journalists expect PR reps to pitch angles and do all the brainstorming. But reporters obviously have a better sense of what their target audience wants to read. When you have thoughts on how to shape the story, speak up. We appreciate the collaborative effort.
Because PR professionals juggle multiple tasks and clients, organization is key. When reporters are disorganized – sending scattered, piecemeal requests or not having basics like images ready to send – it creates extra work on our end. Maintaining organized communication helps maximize efficiency.
7. Trying to go over the PR pro’s head
The PR rep is the appointed media contact, yet some reporters try to reach out directly to a company’s CEO or other contacts, catching them off guard. This tactic doesn’t win you bonus points. Keeping communication streamlined through the proper channels is the most ideal scenario and the best way to get the correct information.
8. Radio silence after a pitch
Following up on a story pitch only to get no response from the journalist is frustrating. Even if you’re not interested, a quick reply helps provide closure. The worst feeling is pitching into a void and not knowing if your message was received.
9. Not divulging the full angle
Transparency is key when covering controversial topics. If the story being written takes a negative viewpoint, ethical journalists will be upfront about that. Vaguely stating you’re “covering a topic” without explaining the angle prohibits PR pros from giving proper context.
10. Refusing to fact check
With today’s speedy news cycle, errors are inevitable. I experienced this myself while working as a journalist. It’s a costly mistake. Even seasoned journalists should verify the information to maintain credibility. Accuracy is a must.
11. Not sharing the final piece
After working together to craft a story, it's common courtesy for the reporter to share the final published piece with the PR contact. It helps us keep tabs on media coverage and assess if our messaging comes across accurately. Consider adding us to your media distribution list.
12. Taking a condescending tone
This industry is full of deadlines, performance pressure, and opposing interests at times. Maintaining mutual respect between PR pros and journalists despite the challenges should always prevail. A little common courtesy goes a long way.
The ideal working relationship between publicists and the media has open communication, clearly defined expectations, and considerate professionals on both sides. With a few minor behavior and etiquette tweaks, the rapport between these two pivotal industries can be markedly smoother.
For more information about media relations, download our “Learn Media Relations from The Media” e-book for additional tips on interacting and connecting with journalists and PR professionals.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio