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How NOT to alienate a journalist

People often talk about there being a ‘love hate’ relationship between journalists and PR professionals (‘PRs’). Journalists need PRs for putting them in touch with the right people and for feeding them newsworthy stories, however journalists will also frequently complain about PRs, and often with good reason.

When a journalist and PR relationship works it can prove mutually beneficial. The journalist may view the PR as a key source of news and opinion and a friendship may even blossom. On the flipside, when a PR has a poor relationship with a journalist this can prove very damaging and will directly impact campaign results. So, to ensure the journalist becomes a friend rather than a foe, here’s some advice:

Research the journalist and their publication/s – If you want a journalist to write about you/your client, ensure the stories you pitch are relevant. Research what they cover, who their publications are aimed at, their writing style, any guidelines and how they like to receive pitches. If a pitch is totally off the mark, this will do nothing to nurture your relationship.

Don’t pester – This means don’t phone a journalist after sending a press release to ask “did you get it?” This also means not following-up a few days later with “just wondering whether you’ve read my press release?”. This is a pet hate and should be totally avoided.

Be contactable – It’s surprising how many PRs will send out a press release or other PR material and fail to include any contact details (including telephone number) so journalists can follow-up. And when journalists do follow-up, it’s amazing how many PRs aren’t available to take the call or don’t get back to the journalist. If you’re particularly keen to peeve off a journalist, send out a press release then go on holiday and turn on your ‘out of office’.

Be newsworthy – No journalist wants to receive a press release about you being a silver sponsor at a second-rate show. Give anything you plan to pitch the sanity test to make sure it’s relevant, timely and interesting. If it’s truly innovative then even better. Bland, promotional and tenuous must be avoided at all costs.

Respond swiftly and meet deadlines – Journalists are always ‘on deadline’ and so the quicker you get back to them, the better. There is nothing more frustrating than them receiving some great information/comment once the story has been filed.

Media relationships must always be nurtured and so remember to target well, pitch only newsworthy stories, be available and respond quickly. By following these simple guidelines, you may be pleasantly surprised by the results.