Five ways to help us (journalists) help you (PR pros)

Five ways to help us (journalists) help you (PR pros)

As journalists and public relations professionals continue to face an evolving news scene, it’s important to remember how often we need each other–and how, when we work well together, everyone wins.

Often times, we drive each other crazy, and it can be hard not to take it personally. But many journalists have positive, working relationships with people in PR and we rely on each other to do our jobs well. If we work to understand each other, this can become the norm.

Here are five tips to help us all get there – and a real life example of a time when they worked.

1. Keep it simple. We get hundreds of emails a day (just like you). Some are from colleagues, some are from readers and many of them are pitches from PR professionals. If you’re pitching us via email and this is the first time we’ve heard from you, getting right to the point is going to make it easier for journalists to read the whole of the email right then and there rather than setting it aside for when we have time–which may be never. If you can catch our eye with a short pitch, we’ll be sure to let you know if we want or need more information. Save that for later!

In real life (IRL): A PR rep I work with regularly knows that by providing me the basic who, what, when and where in the initial pitch I’m able to make a quick decision about if it is relevant to our readership (which is almost always is). She does a great job making special mention of the people and places that specifically relate to our publication. It’s easy for me to fire off an email to set up an interview or ask for more content if needed.

2. Learn our deadlines. If we are going to have an ongoing relationship, it’s really helpful if you know what deadlines we are regularly meeting. If you’re gunning for a weekly that goes to print every Tuesday night, Wednesday pitches aren’t going to make the cut. Ever. It’s frustrating for journalists when we have to repeat that–and it must be frustrating on the PR side that the pitch was all for naught.

IRL: In my current job, I have a strict midweek deadline that I am careful to communicate to anyone who may wish to provide content or have me cover an event. There is a rep I work with on a regular basis who consistently sends the information she wishes to have published after our deadline. It makes it difficult for me to accommodate the request, and our readers suffer because the information doesn’t get distributed. What’s worse, she takes it very personally as if I don’t “like” her or the information she is sending. It’s a prickly relationship that could be so much better if she would work within our deadlines.

3. Contact the right person. Most journalists have their contact information listed online, whether it’s via social media or the publication’s homepage. You shouldn’t have to hunt for it (but if you do, let us know so we can change it). It makes a big difference when you send the right pitch to the right person. It doesn’t help you to send a pitch to the lifestyle editor that should go the sports editor. And it really doesn’t help you if you address an email recipient with the wrong name. Reporter Justin is likely to assume your email is spam as soon as he gets past “Dear Sarah.”

IRL: I get emails on a regular basis that should go to advertising/sales or are addressed to someone who held my position years earlier. It’s not an efficient way to communicate because then I have to track down the person who should be the recipient and take time to pass on the message. It also makes me feel like they aren’t doing their research and might not be someone I can rely on.

On the other hand, I have had several PR pros give me a quick phone call to introduce themselves, find out what types of pitches I am interested in and what my deadlines are. Now that is someone I can trust from the get-go and will want to work with.

4. Know our readers. It’s safe to say most journalists understand PR pros put in a lot of work to get their stories in front of the right readers. From pitching, collaborating on stories and more, you log a lot of hours without knowing if it will pay off. To help make sure it does, find out what kind of stories we are looking for. Check out our media kit to learn more about our audience. We’ll start to associate you as someone who has something of value to pitch us, rather than some who is mindlessly blasting out their pitches to any and every contact that have regardless of relevance.

IRL: I can tell when a PR rep has done their research. I received an email pitch from a rep who took the time to read some of my work and based on what he read, pitched me a story that ended up being a great feature. He got coverage for his client and I ended up with a great lead. Now, when I see his emails pop up, I’m excited to read his pitches.

5. Follow through. If your goal as a PR rep is to get your message into the hands of those who can deliver it (journalists!) to the right people, in the right place, at the right time–help us do it. If you promise us an interview, follow through. If you say you’ll send us a photo we need by an agreed up deadline, follow through. We all know good help is hard to find. Be good help and we’ll be more inclined to work with you in the future and we’ll both be better for it.

IRL: Knowing that I had a very short window of time to complete a phone interview with a prominent designer during New York Fashion week, the PR rep I was working with provided me with a comprehensive fact sheet of information that covered a lot of the basics. That way, I didn’t waste time during the interview getting basic stats and could focus my time on getting personal, useful quotes from the designer.

Journalists: have any other tips to add? We'd love to hear them!

Sierra Shafer, the lifestyle reporter at a weekly newspaper in Southern California, is most often found at trailheads, departure gates. To see what else she is writing, check out her blog and follow her on Twitter @sierrashafer.

Photo: Help us help you via Shutterstock

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