For the duration of my career in public relations (albeit short) I have always aimed to build good relationships with journalists.
A couple of the team from Ethos public relations recently attended a very insightful networking event with Stephanie McGovern from BBC Breakfast, who talked about how to catch her attention when emailing across story ideas and, conversely, what not to email her about.
Having a journalism degree and experiencing first hand life in a busy newsroom myself, I know that it is common knowledge that journalists can sometimes become frustrated with some PR professionals, but I think it’s safe to say that the frustration often comes from us PR people too.
Working in communications is very rewarding, and there’s nothing better than seeing your client’s name in the paper or a magazine, knowing that you’ve worked hard to get it there.
However on a number of occasions, I have found myself unfortunately snubbed by a seemingly nice journalist and their team of sub-editors. For example on one recent occasion, I pitched a great case study on behalf of a client, and the journalist happily confirmed they would use it that week. Needless to say it was not all as it seemed, and I discovered whilst reading the printed article a few days later, that my client had not been mentioned once!
It is very frustrating when all your hard work seems to have gone to waste, and even more frustrating, as someone who is a big supporter of traditional journalism, to know that this is actually quite commonplace in the newsroom.
I know that journalists are sent hundreds of press releases a day, and particularly at smaller local papers where reporters are few, they may not have the time or the resources to go out there and find a story the good old fashioned way. It’s much easier to just grab a decent press release from your inbox, add your own by-line, then hand it to the editor to go in tomorrow’s paper. I’m not saying this is what all journalists do now, far from it.
I guess what I’m saying is that if a journalist is going to use a press release written by someone else, at least credit them or the client they are representing. We are, in a way, doing journalists a favour and saving them a lot of time by essentially handing them a story on a plate, at least give us something in return!
The British press are enduring a tough time at the moment, and this is why I think it is important that the media really step up their game.
I have had the privilege of being taught by, and working with, some fantastic journalists who are an absolute credit to the industry – it is these people that we rely on to keep doing what they are doing and to show us, and the public, that ‘decent’ journalism is in safe hands.
Posted at 3:13pm on 20th July 2012
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