Hey journalist friends! If there’s one thing media relations professionals want you to know, it’s this: the PR pro is only successful in the eyes of their clients when their story is covered or their content is published.
Yes, that sounds very selfish on our end. BUT, as a media relations professional and former journalist for 9 years, I know that journalists need OUR assistance on discovering stories and creating fresh content. So as the old saying goes, ‘team work makes the dream work’ and it all starts with open communication between journos and PR pros.
In my short stint working both sides of the aisle, here are my three ways that journalists and media relations pros can develop a truly valuable relationship.
Journalists: Share what helps and make that the standard
When I was an executive editor, my favorite relationships with PR folks were with those who took the time to understand what I would needed to “get your story in the paper” and online.
This common understanding came when I let the PR pros know what kinds of topics our audiences loved to read and what kinds of media (photos, video, and story ideas about specific topics) would really help us to produce a better story.
For example, with a smaller newsroom, I recommended press releases and some accompanying visuals as the best way to alert us to a potential story. This way, if we couldn’t send someone to cover the event, we could at least reference the press release to produce a story alerting our readers to the news.
Can’t cover it? Ask for submitted content
There was a time when “submitted content” meant low-quality, shamelessly self-promoting content. That’s not the case these days. Many public and media relations professionals were once journalists, and they too now understand that promotional content doesn’t attract readers but objectively balanced content does. Will you need to change the voice for your readership? Maybe! Journalists need to be more open minded to submitted and creative content. Increasingly, we are in the same business of gaining eyeballs on content.
As newsrooms continue to shrink, editors have to rely more and more on content that is produced by the community it covers.
It’s true, we will always need reporters to do the digging when it comes to investigative journalism like exposing covering corruption, but when it comes to stories about events, people and achievements, submitted content can be a valuable resource that benefits both journalists and PR pros.
While working as a regional digital director in the Philadelphia suburbs, I had no live writing staff but would often find great pitches in my inbox that were sometimes just too good to ignore.
So what would I do when my work was overwhelming and there was no one to assign for coverage? I would ask for photos, a video or some form of media that could be used in a digital online post. And when the headline was interesting, the photos well framed and the social posts were bound to catch eyes, I knew we had a great piece of content that could contribute to our overall goal of growing online audience.
If you’re not interested, just say so
Yes, anyone in media relations would be disappointed to hear that their pitch did not convince a reporter or editor to cover the topic, but I now know that leaving the PR team hanging will only waste their time and leave you, most likely, annoyed.
Be honest. If the content isn’t worth covering, politely let them know. This way, they can move on to another media outlet, and you won’t see two to three more follow up emails coming your way on a subject you are not even interested in.
What have we missed? Do you have a tip to improve the journalist-media relations relationship? Leave a comment and share your perspective.