How Journalists Work: 9 Perspectives From Around the Globe

Martin Jones

Having worked with numerous agencies and companies all over the world, it’s always been interesting to learn how the media operates in different countries and how the rules of engagement vary.

As the U.S. division of the ION Global PR Network, a collective group of 400 global PR professionals representing 40 countries, we regularly share clients and campaign experiences with various regions.

We recently started a monthly initiative with ION members called “Tuesday Tips” in which we share knowledge and global perspectives on the PR and media industry on the first Tuesday of every month. Here are some of the contributions from the latest edition—the theme was “How Journalists Work.”

  1. Less face time in France – Most IT journalists prefer telephone briefings to face-to-face. This is not to say that French reporters do not like meeting with company spokespeople; it is more that they are spread too thin and don’t have time. It also explains why press conferences are becoming a thing of the past and why press tours still work.

  2. Up close and personal in Germany – Face-to-face briefings are the preferred way for editors to get to know a company and, typically, only if there is a good news hook to go with it. The best way to do this is via a press tour—the spokesperson goes to visit the editor at the publishing house or in a central meeting location. The best days for this are Tuesdays through Thursdays—editors don’t like meeting up too near to the weekend. Phone interviews can work if there is a real value-add in the information being offered via the phone.

  3. Press conferences are becoming a thing of the past in Italy – Many publications are understaffed, and the preferred way to work with journalists is via a set of one-to-one interviews—an open day where a spokesperson is available at the agency’s offices from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and journalists show up at their convenience; or more informal press briefings with four to six journalists max.

  4. Providing local information is key in Latin America – Even though global corporate stories are welcome, media in every country throughout Latin America tends to be territorial; hence journalists prefer to receive local information/data and preferably by local spokespeople. If companies do not have local representatives, those executives in charge of a market should provide time to meet face-to-face with the media to establish and maintain a close relationship. It is important that the company’s products/services are available in the country and that the client has customers in the country.

  5. Strong personal relationships mean a lot in the Middle East – Journalists like to have a relationship with their PR agencies and, by default, their agency’s clients. Most do not like companies to contact them as and when they want or need them. Also keep in mind the best way to build a relationship is through speaking Arabic, especially in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait, where the greater part of media and the populations are Arabic-speaking only and where government decision makers are not always bilingual.

  6. One-to-ones work best in the Netherlands – Press conferences are only successful if you are Microsoft, Google or Apple, and only if you have big news. It is not that journalists aren’t interested; it’s that they simply do not have the time.

  7. An interpreter is recommended in Spain – Spanish journalists accept face-to-face interviews with English-speaking spokespeople, but you must be ready to translate questions and answers—an interpreter is highly recommended.

  8. The U.K. press likes one-to-one access – They don’t tend to have time for face-to-face press briefings and usually prefer a telephone interview. They are also notoriously unreliable, so it’s best not to build campaigns that are fundamentally based on journalists attending a physical event.

  9. In the U.S., it’s about the story – It’s important to build solid relationships with reporters in the U.S., but remember that reporters aren’t your friends. A reporter’s loyalty is to the story, not necessarily to his/her relationship with the PR specialist. 

Are you a PR pro in another region not specified above? If so, please share your tips on engaging with the media, as I’d love to learn from you. Together, we can all create global PR chemistry.

Martin Jones is a managing partner and co-founder of March Communications. He can be reached at [email protected]
You can follow him on Twitter @mrjbos


3 responses to “How Journalists Work: 9 Perspectives From Around the Globe

  1. While I believe in local characteristics, this piece is too black anad white

  2. Interesting! Here in Botswana it’s becoming more and more common for companies to request for questionnaires from the media houses when they request for a face-to-face interview. The media chase after the story but they also go when they’re invited even if there’s no story – the briefing becomes the story!

  3. In Bangkok, media will still turn up for a press event, but we find smaller, more intimate ’roundtable’ sessions are better; even journalists from competing titles will join the session and share notes with each other; due to heavy traffic, roundtable sessions should be close to the skytrain or underground train stations. Understandably, the traditional press conference is dying – unless the news is BIG.

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