Fixing what’s broken between journalism and PR

On Inside PR #173, my ‘-30-‘ comment, the short POV remarks we’re using to end the show, dealt with a few of the things we need to do to start fixing the pretty much broken relationship between journalism and PR.

This is something that must be done. And I think it’s up to our industry to take the lead and try improve the way we interact with each other; build trust, credibility and respect on both sides. I think the same applies to bloggers and other influencers, as well.

Part of the problem lies with the way our profession functions: trying to place stories, traditionally in MSM, for clients or organizations. We often feel under a lot of pressure to deliver results for which we have virtually no control.

Fine. That’s our reality and no one forced us into it. I’m proud to be a PR practitioner and this uncertainty is one of the things we just accept.

There are many media with whom I feel I have a good professional relationship. I define that as being able to approach a journalist/blogger with an idea they might be interested in, showing them why/how it works in a quick, efficient manner and having them say either say yes or no (or sometimes saving it for a future story).

However, I think that over the years we have made many repeated mis-steps that hurt the industry and our collective reputation.

And now, with social media and two-way conversations being embraced by both sides, this seems like a perfect time to make the change.

Here are 10 steps the PR profession can take right now:

  1. Always read a journalists or blogger’s past stories (and not just from last week). We need to do our research and know who’s covering or interested in which subjects.
  2. Know the difference between hard and soft news and position a story accordingly. It may seem big to us (or our client), but we have to step back and realize where our news fits into the grand scheme of things. I mean really fits.
  3. Be transparent and tell the truth.
  4. Stop writing in corporate-speak
  5. Strive to be helpful, not a pest.
  6. Understand that while our clients are a top priority for us, the reporter has many other priorities and we need to empathize more with them.
  7. Stop making media lists from databases. Go to the source: newspapers, broadcast outlets, blogs, online publications. See who’s writing about what. If we’re not passionate about media, why are we in PR?
  8. Never blast out an email to a large (or small) bcc list. We’ve all done that in the past. And some are still doing it. Really, this was a bad idea from the start. It turned us into broadcasters, something we’re not.
  9. Leave our PR egos at the door. It’s up to us to reach journalists. Stop griping if they don’t always call back when we want them to.
  10. Help journalists and bloggers understand the new FTC rules/principles so that we can continue to work together in a mutually beneficial way.

It sounds simple but we’ve got to make the first move.

What do you think?


8 thoughts on “Fixing what’s broken between journalism and PR

  1. Great insight and advice Martin especially for those new to the PR biz. Whether approaching traditional or "citizen" journalists the rules remain the same – create a relationship and not a hit and run accident. Good positive reinforcement for all of us as we develop our media contacts. Cheers,Andy

  2. I think this is great advice. After all the first PR practitioners were journalists. Making great relationships is part of being a great PR practitioner, so why should our relationships with journalists be any different?

  3. Great post Martin. I agree with all of your tips, especially the one about not making media lists from purchased databases. We need to read, watch, and listen to the media we're pitching. And, to your point about not griping when journalists don't return our calls, I agree but it sure would be easier if they found a polite way to let us know they're not interested so we can move on.

  4. +1 on all of your points here, Martin. Excellent stuff – common sense, most of it, of course – but it's the kind of common sense that is sadly so… uncommon. Very well expressed common sense too.It reminds me of a conversation I've been having a lot recently, comparing the way blogger relations "best practices" are described with the way most typical media relations efforts are conducted. When you think about it – the advice around building relationships, not blindly pitching from a list, not spamming, and taking the time to read and understand first before you pitch – these are all things PR professionals should always have been doing. If nothing else, the new art of successful blogger relations is reminding a lot of people (I hope) that the customary way media relations is carried out in some corners is utterly wrong, foolish, and counter-productive.Thank you for expressing this so succinctly and well.

  5. Thanks to everyone for your perspective. And Michael, it's so true that everything we're doing well in blogger relations is what good media relations used to be. It's seems a bit like 'back to the future' to me.

  6. Another great post Martin! One comment from my perspective is that #5 and #9 are sometimes at odds with each other. I've had challenges trying to connect with journalists, but I persist with calls and emails (within reason). Now if they're not getting back to me, and I just keep on trying, at what point am I becoming a "pest"? I know that once I've established more relationships with journalists, it will get easier, but in the meantime I'm feeling kinda pesky…

  7. Thanks for your comment, Steve. I know what you mean. I generally try to leave one message and then follow up at different times without leaving another message for at least a week. You can also try using *67 (number block) if you're attempting to reach a person several times in one day. Hope that helps.

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