A "Fuller House": how journalists and PR professionals can better live under the same roof

A "Fuller House": how journalists and PR professionals can better live under the same roof

So this means I really am turning into Danny Tanner…

In the morning, I teach a strategic communication writing class at a leading school of journalism. After lunch, I head back and teach a broadcast journalism writing class.

I’ve been asked how I can ride both sides of the fence. Some are curious; others are skeptical. I’m a realist.

As much as journalists and strategic communicators (I don’t like saying PR people) claim to come from two different worlds, it’s time to realize we’re all in the same house.

 It’s a full house, and with media changing rapidly, it’s getting fuller every day. I appreciate and value the importance of independence, but I also believe there are artificial barriers that keep us apart; so, let’s have a family meeting and learn how to hug things out.

Whatever happened to predictability? The milkman, the paperboy, evening tv.

Journalists and strategic communicators deal with substantial change every single day. It’s one of the reasons our work is so challenging and we are on those most stressful jobs list.

That award isn’t a badge of honor. It’s a problem everyone reading this can fix. Why aren’t journalists and strategic communicators better about communicating with each other? As the great Dave Coulier would say, “Cut it out.“

Accessibility is essential in effective communication. For strategic communicators, that means being there when reporters call. It also means being able to get the right people needed to help a journalist tell their story. Certainly it means offering cell phone numbers and being mindful of reporter deadlines.

Accessibility is a two-way street. How many strategic communicators emailed (with a legitimate pitch) and then called, only to end up in SPAM or voicemail purgatory? To quote an Olsen twin, “How rude.”

Reporters are busy; I get it. But, if reporters want 24/7 access, cursory responses to pitches help. So too do regular office hours to respond to reporter calls.

If a strategic communicator can take the time to read a Cision profile with those times and then call, reporters then know the pitch is custom, not canned.  

Open and honest dialogue about real people and real stories. Isn’t that what everyone wants? There is a balance between independence and collaboration. Let’s embrace this.

When you're lost out there and you're all alone, A light is waiting to carry you home.

Why are we doing what we are doing? I ask this of students all the time. Reporters want to tell compelling and accurate stories that advance the public good, but they often don’t have the time or resources to find the right angles.

Strategic communicators want to tell compelling and accurate stories for their clients that advance the public good, but they need third party validation to make it work.

As John Stamos and his broadcast quality hair would say, “Have Mercy.”

Journalists and strategic communicators need each other, and we use the same muscles to find our strength. In a world built on website impressions, billable hours and KPI, the need to push in the same direction is moving from nice to necessary. So why do I feel like Kimmy Gibbler when I say this?

Everywhere you look, everywhere you go.
 There's a heart (There's a heart), a hand to hold onto.

Patrick Lencioni’s book 5 Dysfunctions of a Team suggests that a lack of trust and fear of conflict are the foundation of group drama. This leads to a lack of buy-in, inattention to detail and unfocused results.

As a reporter, I was constantly frustrated by a lack of resources and time to tell my story. I focused my anger and energy on the assignment desk, producers and other newsroom staff who had just as little (if not less) time than I did. Was I wrong? Yes. Am I sorry? Very. It was misguided energy, and I didn’t look at strategic communicators and people who could help without compromising my ethics and integrity. This was a mistake, and too often the end result feels like an Olsen punch line: “You’re in big trouble Mister.”

Strategic communicators are in a similar predicament. In the quest to “go viral,” we pitch dozens or hundreds of reporters to appease mindless output objectives. Too often, what we need is one person who can give the story the nurturing it needs to organically grow. Instead of looking out our account supervisors or CFO’s in angst, maybe we should turn our attention as well to people who can better help.

I don’t want to sound like Danny Tanner giving a life lesson that ends with a family hug, but journalists and strategic communicators are all living in a full house. We all want the same great story. It makes sense for all of us to get along now, rather than wait for a reunion special in another two decades. Let’s open our mind, trust in others and remember why we’re doing what we’re doing.

(Chip-a-dee-ba-ba-dow)

Dan Farkas is a Lecturer of Strategic Communication at Ohio University. He lives in Powell, Ohio with his wife (who may have binge watched Fuller House on Netflix as he wrote this) and two amazing children. Dan would welcome any way to advance this conversation and hopes you will connect with him @danfarkas or on LinkedIn.

Photo: House via Shutterstock

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