How to rebuild the PR/journalist relationship

PR professionals should put themselves in the shoes of journalists to form stronger relationships and collaborate on more compelling stories.

PR professionals should put themselves in the shoes of journalists to form stronger relationships and collaborate on more compelling stories.

It’s been five years since I made the switch from professional journalist to public relations. Back then, all I cared about was finding the truth about the industry I covered and the products within. Since jumping ship however, that yearn seems to have lost its potency – overtaken by a relentless focus on key messages and narrative control.

Did I lose my edge? Hardly. The PR industry did. The growing schism between PR pros and journalists is salty proof.

So, how can we fix this? How can we as PR people begin to help journalists do their jobs instead of crowding their inboxes, only to find our pitches resurface as comical screengrabs in a Twitter feed? The answer is simple: pretend you are a journalist and ask yourself these key questions.

Will your audience be interested in this?

Most journalists today don’t write for themselves. They have people to please just like we do. From editors to holding companies and readers, each story needs to serve a population. If that population will ignore a story, why even write about it?

Look at this question on two levels: objectivity and subjectivity. If the facts are new, impactful and could solicit real change within an industry, focus your pitch on the objective details. If the emotional aspect of the story truly moves you, then focus on that. If there’s neither and “your” audience would simply read the headline and move on, then you have a dead pitch.

Still struggling? Try boosting your copywriting skills to craft a short and sweet pitch.

Do you tell a complete story?

If all PR people just send journalists blanket hypotheticals, they won’t be able to write a complete or compelling story. Journalists don’t have a lot of time and deadlines are getting stricter by the day. Make sure you either have the information to write a complete story yourself, or access to someone who can help on short notice.

Would you be interested in this?

Forget your audience for a second and start to focus on your interests. What beat do you cover? What’s your opinion on the industry? Are you skeptical or hopeful? Do you write tongue-in-cheek or straight and to the point? If this pitch hit your inbox, would you pass on it, or enquire for more details?

I get it – gathering all these details takes time away from your other day-to-day tasks. But, if third-party exposure is the true measurement of PR success, then you can afford to invest a little extra time in forming a relationship with journalists to collaborate on a story together, instead of bothering them until they fold.

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