This is the story about the other side of the media relations coin.
I recently shared some feedback from reporters about their pet peeves when dealing with PR professionals. I’ve been overwhelmed by the reaction from many who’ve found the post helpful. So, in an attempt to present both “sides of the coin” (as a PR friend of mine suggested), I’m sharing what irks PR professionals when they are working with reporters.
To be clear, my posts are not intended to create any ill will between PR pros and journalists. We need each other. The goal of this short series is to blast through those misconceptions we may have about the other side and to learn what is appropriate or appreciated versus what makes the other want to climb the walls.
Like I did in my previous post, I’ve asked some of my PR friends and colleagues to share their character-building stories from working with journalists, as well as what irks them the most when trying to do their job. Here are some responses, although I’ll start with my own personal story to get the ball rolling.
1. “Rudeness for the sake of being rude.” – this one is my story
About 12 years ago I worked for a health care giant. Part of my job was to proactively reach out to reporters. One of my many phone calls one day was to a health beat reporter at a local TV station. Upon hearing my name and company, this reporter promptly cut me off saying, “Honey, unless you have the cure for cancer, don’t bother calling me. EVER AGAIN.” CLICK. So, that was fun. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had nightmares about this person standing over me ready to beat me with my desk phone while I slept.
But, we all move on, right? Not all reporters are as rude or unwilling to work with PR professionals as my experience suggests. I’ve had equally awesome correspondence that has resulted in stories for which we could both be proud. I am lucky to call some reporters my friends—both on a personal and professional level.
2. “Not understanding the behind-the-scenes work a PR professional has to do to make something happen.” – Media Relations Manager with a health care company
Sometimes reporters need to speak with executives at a company who don’t really want to talk. Or, perhaps they need data or information that isn’t readily available. It is usually because of the strong relationships a PR professional has with those inside their company that they are able to secure such data. I can say from experience that people inside certain companies hold information close to the vest. Without proper coaching from a respected PR professional about how it will be used, that information would never see the light of day. When reporters expect a PR professional to perform a miracle, it is beyond frustrating because they don’t realize the lengths many have had to go to get what they could.
3. “When dealing with something that could be controversial, listen carefully to both sides of the story before determining the angle your story will take. Preconceived notions, or taking the ‘juicier’ side of the story, often will leave you with egg on your face.” – Communications Manager with an Energy Company
This one is tricky but important. With smaller newsrooms, fewer reporters and more pressure to boost rankings/readership, it can sometimes appear to those of us not in the newsroom that there is a tendency to go with the “sexier” story than to fairly present both sides. Likely unintentional, it happens. And it is ugly for all involved. I’ve seen it when it was intentional, too. I won’t name any names, but the David and Goliath story theme is a common one. The public loves to see the average guy or gal defeat the behemoth corporation. It’s a good story when true. Before jumping to any conclusions, it’s important to uncover all pieces of the story before determining the angle or theme. And, please, verify all facts before putting out controversial information.
4. “Serving up a great story that is unique, relevant, timely and with supporting data and multiple possible interview sources only to have your client absent from the story completely.” – PR Agency Executive
Many clients understand that’s the name of the media relations game. As PR professionals, we can execute strategies to give our clients the best chance of getting in the story, but we don’t control the media. There are times when we serve up a story on a golden platter, the reporter runs with it, and our client gets left behind.
It’s when the clients who either don’t really get how this all works or don’t care how it works – those who want their pound of flesh because they weren’t mentioned in the story – that the interaction between PR pro and reporter gets uncomfortable and irksome. So, if any reporters reading this find they like a story pitch from a PR person, try to include some aspect of what was in the pitch—whether a quote from a source, data identified as being from their company or even a mention—we could all live in a much happier space together.
I’m curious—what do you think PR and reporter friends? Do you agree with any of these or have you experienced them yourself? I’d love to hear your side of the story, so share them in the comments below.
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