PR & Media: How To Build Relationships

The relationship between PR professional and journalists today is under increasing strain. Reporters are taxed to the hilt, working in newsrooms that have been upended by the Web and, in many cases, for traditional newspaper companies whose business model has been blown to smithereens, also courtesy of the Web.  Very few reporters cover single beats anymore, and many have to become jacks of all trades – so to speak.

PR pros, of course, are under growing pressure to show results to their clients and cut through the clutter. It’s a symbiotic relationship, at least on paper. PR teams are producing a growing amount of content for their clients that can be converted to help populate media real estate, both in print and on-line. Despite myriad changes in the relationship, some PR professionals often fall back into bad habits, and behave in certain ways that will alienate reporters and media reps covering their market and/or space.

#The inevitable follow-up telephone call to the email alert. “Hi, did you happen to get my email I sent to you this morning?” When reporters pick up the phone and hear that question from a PR exec it’s like one thousand nails clawing on a blackboard. If the reporter is interested in the pitch rest assured he or she will respond. If it’s a really solid pitch, the reporter may—egad—pick up the phone and call the PR rep to flesh out the pitch and get the ball rolling. But lose the follow-up call which, more often than not, will no doubt catch the reporter art the worst possible time. That only adds ratchets up the tension and makes the reporter not want to deal with you.

#Multiple email pitches—sent to reporters working in the same newsroom. Most PR pros worth their salt know that reporters are a hypercompetitive bunch. It’s not unusual for reporters working a similar beat to protect their sources from one another. So when you send the same precise pitch to multiple reporters it betrays a certain laziness and reinforces the notion that all PR pros ever do is “spray and pray.” What is more, the multiple emails most likely will cancel each other out, even if one of those reporters who got the email is interested in pursuing the story.

#Teasing an exclusive and then backing off. Hearing the word “exclusive” gets reporters stoked. In many ways, it’s their raison d’être. And PR execs can help to solidify relationships with reporters when they supply an exclusive. But often times PR pros will offer an exclusive to reporters without having vetted it upstairs. Corporate chieftains sometimes want their stories spread far and wide, rather than handed to a single reporter or media outlet. If you do offer an exclusive, make sure the offer is airtight and senior management is onboard. Otherwise, you may have to rescind the offer. And when it comes to media relations that’s a pretty big matzo ball you’re going to have scrap from your face.

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