The Symbiotic Relationship of PR & Journalists & How to Make It Work for You
Ah, PR and journalism! A tale of love and hatred as old as time.
Literally born from American journalist Ivy Lee deciding to lend his newsroom expertise to the corporate world in the early 1900s, it’s no surprise that PR shares an intrinsic and symbiotic relationship with its media predecessors. However, while the last 100 years have left the industry unrecognisable from its early origins – its influence now stretching into the boardrooms of state, commercial and non-profit organisations alike – equally drastic are the changes that have occurred in the last 24, 12, even 6 months.
Despite being no secret that the rise of digital media has onset a reciprocal and simultaneous decline in that of traditional, unbeknown to most is the toll that this has taken on the PR/journalist relationship. An industry where job cuts, culls and mergers remain the only constant, journalists are increasingly being expected to be one-person newsrooms; writing, broadcasting, Tweeting, iPhone recording, Insta’ Story-ing machines. It’s no surprise then, that journalists’ patience for press releases – a minuscule margin to begin with – is shrinking as rapidly as your local newspaper’s circulation.
At the other side of the spectrum, worsening the issue is PR’s unprecedented industry growth; an abundance of practitioners now competing fiercely for journalist’s scarce time and attention. This isn’t to say, however, that capturing their attention is impossible should you know the appropriate methods to do so. In fact, the growing pressures placed upon journalists mean that they’ll often happily work with a neatly edited release; provided it adequately piques their interest and provides the groundwork for a compelling news story. But when journalists routinely receive hundreds of media releases per day, the million-dollar question remains: how do you make yours stand out from the crowd?
The answer, as simple yet elusive as it may be, is respect; the very notion of reciprocal communication and mutual understanding that underpins the PR profession as a whole. As blatant as the two-syllable solution may be, however, at times escapes even the very best of practitioners. You see, not unlike their media peers, PR too is an industry defined by its fast-paced, dynamic, and often frantic nature; those working within it similarly finding themselves at a frequent loss for time. The result? The dreaded “Hi (insert name)” press release; a painfully impersonal approach destined for the trash box of each randomly mass selected recipient. Wasting the time of all those involved, here at Undertow Media, we cannot emphasise enough the importance of avoiding these. Nonetheless, while the simple inclusion of a personalised greeting can work wonders for your release, it is by no means the end-all to ensuring successful media outreach.
Instead, your release should be finely targeted to those in the media to which it specifically relates and it should go without saying that the information you provide is accurate. With the disturbing rise of fake news, journalists are under even more pressure to ensure the accuracy of their reports. Do your research and only give reliable, factual information. Respect is paramount; if someone is to publish a story detailing your client’s latest launch, the very least you can do is show you engage with their content (better still if you actually do engage with their content) and you know their format and audience. And finally, for extra brownie points, familiarise yourself with the deadlines of the outlets to which you’re pitching, and – you guessed it! – respect them. If a newspaper is published every Friday, don’t embarrass yourself by sending your release at 7:59pm on a Thursday night.
Two sides of the same coin, both public relations and the media rely on one another for their sustained and successful operation. However, while the 21st-century shift toward digital media has witnessed dramatic upheavals in the industry landscapes of both professions, the way in which the two relate has remained relatively unchanged; albeit steadily rising tensions between each. Ignored for too long, going forward, an adjustment must be made; a greater effort by PR professionals to treat journalists as more than just faceless rows on an Excel spreadsheet, as well as one from the media to acknowledge (and respect) the time and effort gone into crafting the communications material that they so readily discard.