It is a truth universally acknowledged that an eager PR in possession of a newsworthy press release must be in want of a receptive journalist. While this isn’t the classic first line of Pride and Prejudice, both do involve related themes: first impressions, reputation, common sense and courtesy. It is often easy, as a PR professional, to forget that we (journalists and PRs) are built of similar moulds. While the execution and methods of the job are different, the desired result is the time: engagement with readers and positive reception of the coverage.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that an eager PR in possession of a newsworthy press release must be in want of a receptive journalist.
While this isn’t the classic first line of Pride and Prejudice, both do involve related themes: first impressions, reputation, common sense and courtesy.
It is often easy, as a PR professional, to forget that we (journalists and PRs) are built of similar moulds. While the execution and methods of the job are different, the desired result is the same: engagement with readers and positive reception of the coverage.
It is therefore vital to truly understand how a journalist operates to ensure you have a strong relationship as well as further opportunities to pitch your content and ideas. The worst scenario is when a journalist is either too busy or uninterested in what you have to say.
To help avoid this, here are some tips for new and seasoned professionals:
1. Be prepared
Just two little words but a very powerful motto which has served PRs and Boy Scouts for years.
Before you send out that email or pick up that phone, double check that you are prepared for any questions/comments that the journalist might throw your way. If they question a statistic or a bit of data, do you know enough about the methodology to reply intelligently? Have you thought about potential questions regarding the client?
It is important that you know the campaign inside and out as awkward pauses should be avoided. The reputation of both you and the client you represent rely on this. Remember: you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
2. Reputation: It is yours to protect
Similar to a journalist, the reputation of a PR is crucial. Once you get to a position where you’ve built a strong rapport with a wide range of journalists, your reputation speaks for itself and outreach becomes a smoother process. It is important to note however that this should not invite complacency.
There are always areas to improve on but if a journalist can trust you and your clients for content, then more often than not, the door will remain open in the future.
I am a firm believer that a reputation is built on three things: trust, understanding and clear communication. If you can master all three, the rest will fall into place and earn you respect from the journalist.
3. Use common sense
I have had conversations with journalists at both nationals and specialist publications that share their pet peeves about PRs. This is always interesting as it allows me to learn from mistakes and to better understand how certain journalists like to be approached.
As I’ve stated before in previous posts, it is crucial when you develop your outreach process. Does a journalist prefer email in the first instance or a phone call? Are mornings better or afternoons?
This exercise, or use of common sense, will ensure you have a higher success rate not only with the journalist but in receiving the coverage you want.
In addition, remember that the average journalist receives 300+ emails a day. With this in mind, make sure your email or phone call, depending on the preference, is concise but contains the key information.
Again, the use of common sense puts you at a better advantage.
Some PRs prefer emails and others swear by a phone call. Personally I fall in the latter. I have recently discovered however that in the event that a journalist is too busy, proposing to send an email works a treat.
In addition to the previous tip of using common sense, this also demonstrates courtesy which is always appreciated by journalists.
Once a journalist can see that you understand and sympathise with their never-ending log of requests, the likelihood of a response is greater.
I hope that was useful. I fyou can think of something I've missed, let me know!