Why PR people matter to journalists

In many j-schools the journalism and PR students are separated by course sequences and snide faculty comments, and those silos aren’t all that uncommon in the profession either.

But it’s a rare reporter who doesn’t come to appreciate what a good public relations practitioner can do for him or her.

In a post on the SPJ website, freelance journalist Jennifer Nicole Sullivan offers six tips for making the most of PR folks as sources.

  • Follow PR Reps on Twitter or LinkedIn: You will learn news tips quicker and gain PR reps as Twitter followers.
  • Send Clear Media Requests: Whether via e-mail or phone, tell PR reps exactly what you need from them and always tell them your deadline.
  • Listen to Their Phone Pitches: Even though you’re crunched for time and can’t stand listening to PR story pitches, hear them out. You never know, it may lead to your next big, unexpected story. By the way, unless they’ve been in the biz for years, PR reps probably feel nervous cold-calling you. So give them a break and don’t be rude.
  • Be Honest: If you’re not interested in covering their story, don’t lead PR reps on. Be honest (but kind) and explain why you’re not interested in their story pitch.
  • Always Be Kind: As I experienced first hand, it pays to be genuinely kind and appreciative. PR reps are more willing to help you when you are courteous and respectful. And if they feel comfortable with you, they are more likely to open up and give you the nitty-gritty information you need.
  • Send a Thank You E-mail and Story Link: PR reps appreciate it when a reporter follows up with a thank you e-mail that includes a link to the published story involving their company/client. That way, the PR rep doesn’t have to search for it or wonder when it’s coming out. And most likely, the PR rep will forward the link to several people or repost the story on their website or via social networking. So that means more readers will see your story. A thank you e-mail takes a bit of time, but it’s worth it to double your readership.

And I would add two more to the list:

  • Not to get preachy, but remember that PR people always have an agenda, so be sure to be extra thorough with fact checking.
  • Pay particular attention to what those PR reps are doing with social media to see what you might learn from their practices.  Some of the biggest social media audiences belong to companies like Starbucks and JetBlue Airways — what are they doing right and would that work in a journalistic setting?

Sullivan says she started out in the business with an attitude that PR practitioners were nothing more than an annoyance and she urges others, especially young reporters, not to make her same mistake.


2 comments for “Why PR people matter to journalists

  1. Mike Bonin
    December 2, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    As a PR practioner for the Navy in Canada, it is interesting to note that as media outlets downsize, I know of at least three reporters who have become PR practioners for different organizations. The apple really does not fall that far from the cart.

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