How PR Pros Can Make Themselves Media Friendly

Recently, PRNEWS ran an essay about how to make your executives media friendly. This is the flip side. During a long career in news and communication, first as a reporter and then an editor at New York City dailies and wire services, and later in PR, I realized that a large percentage of PR practitioners are afraid of engaging with the media, and others are not media friendly.

Many practitioners in our business never have spoken to a journalist. Others have survived without news sense. The most successful PR pros are media friendly and know how to engage with content creators.

In our business, one never knows when a job will require dealing with journalists. And some high-ranking positions definitely require a person with media savvy.

As a result, all PR pros should know how to work with journalists. The below tactics can help make you media friendly:

  • Make certain all information provided to media is correct. Reporters hate to make corrections because they received incorrect information.
  • When speaking to a reporter, never answer a question unless you are certain of the answer. If not, tell the reporter you will check before providing an answer.
  • Always pitch a reporter with a story that is relevant to her beat.
  • Never promise a reporter an exclusive unless you are certain you can deliver. In addition, make sure the exclusive is valuable to the reporter. And know the definition of exclusive. When you offer a journalist an exclusive, it means that the information is not available to anyone else until the journalist decides to use it or not.
  • Never pitch an interview with an executive unless the executive has agreed to it. Arranging an interview and then having to cancel should not happen, unless a true emergency occurs.
  • Once you arrange an interview always deliver. Never cancel it because a more prominent outlet has agreed to an interview.
  • If the interview concerns financial details, prior to the interview send the reporter relevant financial data.
  • Before pitching, always develop several angles that you can suggest.
  • Good reporters always are looking for good stories. If you think of an interesting one, even if it is not relevant to those you represent, send the idea to a reporter. It’s a way of letting the journalist know that you understand the importance of a good relationship.
  • Provide reporters with your after-normal-hours contact information.

Doing the Job

Reporters, like PR pros, have a job to do. Just as a PR pro must satisfy supervisors and executives, journalists have to report to editors, and editors have to satisfy senior editors. They are not necessarily your friends. And, if a friendship develops, do not expect it to result in a litany of puff pieces for those you represent. On the other hand, PR pros should understand that reporters are not the enemy.

The way to create a media-friendly reputation with journalists is not difficult if you follow a few rules:

  • Don’t pitch fluff.
  • Limit pitches to the proper journalists (ie, journalists who cover the subject of your pitch).
  • Your pitch should suggest several story approaches.
  • Never lie to a reporter.
  • Don’t be evasive.
  • Prior to an interview, provide the journalist with detailed information about the company and the executive.
  • Maintain a cordial, professional relationship with reporters, and
  • Treat journalists as you wish to be treated.

There’s one more truth that PR people should keep in mind when dealing with reporters. You need them. They don’t need you.

Arthur Solomon was SVP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller. He is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. [email protected] or [email protected]