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.