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What Journalists Should Know About PR People

PR.journo.textLauren Sieben’s enlightening post about what PR agency and client-side pros should know about today’s newsroom got me thinking about the flipside. What, if anything, should journalists know about a PR firm, or how communications professionals operate?

While the typical public relations agency hasn’t been as radically disrupted as the traditional newsroom, there are many unique pressures and challenges.

First, PR people value feedback. We’re not just trying to sell a story. We need and even expect feedback. The majority of PR professionals are realistic with clients when it comes to earned media coverage, but we do answer to them, meaning we need a response…any response that will help improve the pitch or simply move on to the next thing.

Your contact might be an ex-journalist.  The number of newsroom jobs over the past decade have shrunk, while PR specialist positions during the same time have grown. Inevitably, some of those newly minted PR pros are former reporters. So the guy at the other end of the email may know more about how today’s newsroom works than you think.

PR people are often a reporter’s best advocate. Reporters bemoan the fact that PRs are known to restrict access to senior executives or even – unfortunately – try to micro-manage interviews. But they should also know that we often champion a journalist’s cause. I can’t count the number of times a client has initially refused to do an interview, or tried to place unrealistic conditions on a sitdown or exclusive access to a story. A good PR professional will work to make it happen, and sometimes it’s harder than it looks.

Your social following is an asset. Sure it is. But an active social following can also help a reporter get first crack at an announcement or in-depth access to a CEO or celebrity. If a journalist or blogger is active on social channels and can be expected to help amplify the story through social sharing with thousands of Twitter followers, for example, that makes the access easier.

It’s our job to ask. For the brand mention, the website link, or the sit-down. Yes, we realize that reporters don’t write headlines, guarantee page placement or care about brand promotion, but it’s the job of any good PR professional to negotiate or push for what we think the story can bear.

We want the same thing you do. At the end of the day, the interests of the journalist and the PR person are aligned. We both want a great story.

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