Who are they and how do they affect the role of someone in PR?
This post we are discussing the media and how to manage the sometimes ‘tricky’ relationships they have with PR practitioners.
As a PR practitioner there is no doubt you will be working with the media. In media, we generally mean journalists, however other media representatives of companies and newsrooms can also be included in this group.
So, What’s Tricky?
The relationship between journalists and PR practitioners is not always harmonious but is definitely necessary for both roles to function well. As Michael Kaminer writes in The Observer, as PR practitioners, journalists need you but don’t necessarily like you. Most journalists (not all of them) believe PR practitioners are ‘spin doctors’ who fabricate content in the best interest of the company or individual they work for. However, journalists need stories, and PR often gives newsworthy material for the bulletin. The worry for the journalist is if they report a story from the content of a PR practitioner that turns out to be untruthful or fabricated. Their job is on the line and also they would feel a bit embarrassed… (T, Falconi 2007)
Looking at it from a PR view they feel the media treat them with suspicion and don’t trust them at all. For some PR that genuinely want a truthful news story out there, can often see their work in a twisted view produced by a suspicious journalist. (T, Falconi 2007)
This act of ‘twisting’ a story is an aspect of framing theory. Compare this media release by Donald Trump and this news article by Vanity Fair. Can you see how the media framed the news from the media release?
See what I mean? It’s a difficult, yet necessary relationship. Media need PR for news ideas, PR needs media for coverage. However, PR and media can also work in harmony with the aim of reaching a common goal. It’s not all caution and conflict!
What To Do?
Figuring out how to work with the media can be tough but it is a vital skill in a PR role. You don’t always have to directly approach a journalist, even producing media releases can prompt news stories.
In his article The Journalist and The PR Pro: A Broken Marriage? Peter Himler discusses the requests journalists make to PR practitioners when pitching a story idea.
- Don’t send story pitches to a particular journalist without researching their background first.
- Don’t send story ideas to multiple journalists, word gets around and media does love exclusivity…
- Keep the story idea to a minimum explanation, journalists are time poor and don’t have time to read an essay.
- Keep the email or correspondence subject easy for the journalist to link to.
- Deliver! Don’t make promises you can’t keep, if you have an interview make sure you have secured it, if you have exclusive information make sure you can use it.
As a PR practitioner it is also important to have knowledge of the media agenda and the news platforms in your area. Knowing where to pitch and what to pitch is very important.
Well, What Is Newsworthy?
Journalists receive a lot of information, so they use and compare news values to determine what news is best to publish. Click on the news values to see examples of news working with that value.
It is important as PR practitioners to be aware of these values and make pitches relating to as many values as possible. Remember to keep in mind the readership and platform you are pitching to as some news values may be more valuable than others! To understand more about news values, read more here.
Not All Doom and Gloom!
So does that clarify what me mean by tricky?
Don’t worry when the time comes for you to work with a journalist. Most likely they will be happy for a story idea and take what you have to offer.