This blog occasionally touches on the border between PR and journalists, usually when PR start approaching blogs and bloggers. But my perspective is on how PR folks connect, or misconnect, with journalists. And I notice that PR folk often misfire on one key issue: how to present their credentials to journalists.
It’s like this: Journalists, especially those of us who pride ourselves (foolishly and mistakenly, probably) on developing story ideas ourselves rather than being spoon-fed them, hate being told by a PR contact of the long line of other publications, journalists or colleagues that she or he has previously had dealings with. For me there’s no bigger turn-off.
It’s a simple thing: We like to think we were there first. If a PR person says, ‘glad you called! We can send you clippings that have appeared in [insert names of rival publications here].’ Or ‘glad you called! I know [insert name of journalist’s colleague here] very well, and was actually pitching this very story to them last week.’ Or ‘glad you called. We have been a regular source for your publication.’ Or ‘glad you called. We think you should write about us. Everyone else has’. All this means is that I as a journalist am not plotting any interesting new path, but have just stumbled on someone else’s patch, be it a colleague’s or a rival publication’s. I don’t want to know that. I want to feel I’m breaking new ground.
Advice to PR: Treat every journalist as if they operate in a bubble, independently of everyone else in their profession. At least initially. Of course, if your company has just been written up in a rival publication, or the journalist’s own, it’s better to tell them about it, but don’t expect it to be good news. They’ll thank you, and probably leave the story alone for a while, or try to find a different angle. Everyone hates getting to a source late, however mundane the story may appear.
However much the phrase is used, there’s no such thing as a pack of journalists. We hunt alone, although, if we happen to be camped outside your door, it may not always look like it.