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Dear Journalist: Stuff PR Pros Like

April 7, 2009

Dear Journalist,

Yeah, it’s me again. The PR “flack.” We tend to have a love-hate relationship:  you hating us and the countless number of pitches you receive that may/may not be relevant , but loving the story ideas that fit your beat. I just love my client/organization/ruler of the universe CEO being featured on your front page. Or on the back, by all the ads – I’m really not that picky.

But, I have some beef. We get picked on a lot for being incompetent and not knowing the rules of journalism. Most of us do have a journalism degree. I only have love for you, I promise. I meet many of you for happy hour after a grueling day at the office. We even high-five each other occasionally.  But with newspapers going under left and right, it’s that much more important to have lasting relationships with PR pros and for us to work together for the betterment of media. Plus, if you are unfortunately laid off because your paper goes under, you can always turn to the “flacks” for job advice on how to enter this field.


A Lovable PR Professional

braveheartSo, Stuff PR Pros Like: (and How Can We Work Together?)

1. Don’t Promise me that You’ll use XX as a source….. then turn around and use the competitor

It’s great when we get media hits. It means we are doing our job – pitched the reporter correctly, landed a clip where our client gets mentioned, and all the hard work and labor of crafting releases, practicing in the mirror on pitching you (Yeah, don’t scoff, it makes me better.) Did you know that CEOs love big binders full of media clips and lots of big numbers with circulation, impact, etc? That’s how they measure our worth a lot of the time. But you are dashing hopes and dreams of PR pros everywhere (and making me face an angry CEO) when we secure an interview, then you suddenly stop returning my calls. I open up the paper one morning and your story idea is on the front page…. with my competitor. Ever heard of marching before a firing squad? Yeah, that’s what it’s like when a CEO is promised a story, and then the competitor gets it. We can explain until we are blue in the face, but it eventually falls onto us as a mistake.

So, if you don’t want to use my client/org as a source, just let me know. Give me a headsup. Don’t pull the whole guy thing where they don’t return a call after the first date. PR pros are much better than 1st dates.

2. Don’t become irritated if I pitch you and it’s not your “beat”…. but your Web site, Bacons, past stories says you are

With newspapers going under, many reporters don’t have a specific beat, or it’s changing frequently. I get it, I understand it. But if I’m pitching you for the first time, I do extensive research into you as a reporter – I check out what you have written before, what your Web site says your beat is, what Bacons says it is – but I still might not be up to date. Please try to be patient with me and point me in the right direction – plus I can always call Bacons and have them update their database, and you can let your Webmaster know to change your beat.

3. We aren’t all the same

I hate the “flack” stereotype. I promise I’m smart. I promise I have a college degree. I can form numerous sentences and make a constructive conversation. I work really hard at my job, and not every PR pro is like the lazy one who pitched you on the “most intuitive, amazing toy on the market” and you’re the obituary writer. Successful PR pros will research extensively because we know what a headache it can be to have our e-mails jammed full or phones ringing off the hook.

4. We understand deadlines

We are all in the journalism field and understand deadlines. We have them, you have them. I ask a journalist right at the beginning of a conversation if this is a good time, are they on deadline, etc. – and if so, when is the best time I can reach them. I then mark it in my spreadsheet so if I ever need to contact you again, I know the best way to do so. Also, if you want to just be e-mailed, let me know. That works too. I’m all for making sure I cater to your preferences.

I want to work with you – not against you. White flag is up – what would you add?

*Image copyright of 20th Century Fox and those who made Braveheart.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 7, 2009 3:48 pm

    Great post, Lauren. Very nice to see someone [finally] speak out for “our side!” You see a lot of strongly-worded blog posts and tweets from journalists about bad pitches and how awful PR flacks are, and a lot of defensive comebacks from the flacks, but not a whole lot like this.

    You hit the major points I’d mention. I might expand a little on 2 and ask that the reporter maybe suggest someone else from the outlet who would be interested in the pitch. When our resources aren’t up to date, we might miss the person who wants to hear about it because his beat isn’t listed correctly – or he’s not even on the staff list!

  2. Leah permalink
    April 8, 2009 1:18 pm

    Does having a degree in journalism equate with having worked as a journalist?

  3. April 8, 2009 1:24 pm

    Hi Leah,

    Many have worked as a journalist. I believe that a journalism degree with internship experience gives you a basic foundation on how the journalism field works. Many of us have also had newsroom experience through internships (which I did.)

    My point was that we aren’t incompetent, but are treated as so. I actually had a journalist blatantly tell me that all PR pros were useful for was eye candy to look at when covering an event.

    Thanks for reading!

  4. Brenna Sowder permalink
    April 8, 2009 1:33 pm

    Lauren, thanks for writing this post! I also get frustrated with the bad rap PRs are constantly fighting. Although the industry may have some pitfalls, that should not reflect on the individual efforts of many PR professionals that are courteous and conscientious. I would encourage journalists out there to take these suggestions to heart and BEFORE rolling your eyes and slam down the phone following a curt response, remember that most of us are trying hard to make ourselves available as an ally — so take the 30 seconds to consider our request (and that we’re human) and respond decently.

  5. April 8, 2009 1:48 pm

    Great post. And yes, many of us have even worked as journalists – in my case for about 10 years as a staff writer, editor and freelancer. Doesn’t make me perfect, but I do get it.

  6. April 20, 2009 12:30 am

    great post. I think while some of the comments journalist aim at PR pros may be founded, a lot of it may actually be envy, as they realize the PR field is growing while there’s is shrinking amazingly fast.

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