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Some top tips to bridge the PR/journo divide

Journalists and PROs: one can’t do without the other. But the relationship isn’t always as easy as it could be.

I’ve been working as both for the last 20 years or so, liaising with lots of PROs as a freelance journalist and with lots of journalists, as a PRO. That’s helped me gain an insight into what each side wants from the other and why they don’t always get it.

But I know how hard PROs work to do a great job for their clients and I understand the challenges too. So, here are a few tips I’ve put together, based on my experience as a journalist, that could help make PROs’ jobs easier and further enhance their media relationships:

  1. Be focused. Sometimes, someone who doesn’t have PR experience gets a little more involved in the content of a press release than we might like. And so it loses its focus. But if you make sure the point of your press release is easy to find, it bumps up the chances of the journalist using it.
  2. Be honest. If you’ve offered to provide comment from your client or spokesperson, then discover they’re not free to do it, let the journalist know asap if you can no longer help. They might be counting on this input.
  3. Don’t ask to see copy. Please don’t ask for copy approval or if your client can see the whole article before publication. We know some clients are a little wary of the media, but please apply some ‘tough love’ here if you can.
  4. Stop the moans! Some clients/spokespeople see an interview with a journalist as the chance to have a moan about the media in general. This eats into the time where they could be providing some great media comment. So, a gentle word in advance could be helpful.
  5. Be quick. If you see a forward feature that you’d like your client to be included in, make contact as soon as possible. Please don’t leave it till near the deadline and ask for the deadline to be extended (unless you have something showstopping to contribute).
  6. Be contactable. Put a contact phone number on your email so that the journalist can contact you by phone if need be. Sometimes only a phone conversation will do.
  7. Speak on the phone. It’s not always possible I know, but arranging a phone interview usually makes for much better comment than written replies to pre-supplied questions. People come across so much more naturally on the phone. And I don’t mind running it past them after the call to check they’re happy that it’s accurate.

These are a few tips on what PROs could do to make their job a little easier. But what can journalists do to make sure they get what they need from PROs? I’ve touched on it already; I’d suggest they bear in mind that PROs are dealing with lots of different clients or stakeholders. That means the content journalists receive doesn’t always reflect the PROs’ views on what they know journalists need.

Written by Fiona Nicolson, director at agency Continuous Communications

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