What should journalists expect from PR pros?

Woman holding camera with microphone

A couple of months ago, I wrote about what PR professionals should expect from journalists. (In short, a lot of rejection and silence, but if you’d like to read more, check it out here.)

Since that piece, I’ve been thinking a little more about what journalists should expect from PR pros.

Granted, some journalists don’t expect much from us, because (as mentioned in that last piece) they simply don’t want to work with PR people. And that’s OK.

But most are at least open to the idea. So, what should they expect from us?

To make things easier

It should go without saying, but we should be helpful and make things easier. There are lots of ways to do this, from communicating clearly with the journalist to prompt responses, but this should be the main objective. It’s key to remember that like us, the journalist likely is working on several things at the same time. It’s our job to clear the way – and sometimes get out of the way (see below). Being prepared and staying organized can go a long way.

To be transparent

One way we can be helpful is by being transparent. What is the journalist looking for? When do they need it by? What do you need from us? Can we deliver? If the answer to the last question is yes, it starts by setting an expectation and a timeline of what we can do for them. It’s important not to overpromise and find ourselves backtracking on what we said we could do. It’s also important to say no if we can’t deliver and be prepared to explain why.

To know our role

When working with a national morning show producer recently, the producer opened up about PR people when discussing his need for pre-interviews. In summary, he said he’s had way too many times when the PR pro did all the talking rather than the person the interview was intended for. In other ways, he kindly was telling me from the first few minutes of our “relationship” to get out of the way. It didn’t bother me a bit; in fact, it made my job a little easier. We need to remember what role we play, and most times, it’s not the starring one.

To deliver the goods

I’m not sure I’ve ever written that phrase, but it seems appropriate here. Just make it happen. Line up the interviews, provide the images, make sure everyone is on time, ensure technology works, etc. We need to be able to wear a lot of hats while making sure they match the rest of our outfit. And when they don’t, we need to make it work. We need to provide updates, follow up with clarifications, alert when there are changes, etc. Sometimes that means we’re up late. Other times, that means we’re stepping away from dinner at a restaurant on a Saturday night.

As a former journalist, I try to put myself in their shoes. What would I need if I was still reporting? What would I want? What would frustrate me?

If we try to think of questions like these – while also keeping our client top of mind – we can ensure that we can meet and exceed the expectations of even the most cynical or demanding journalist.

Sean Ryan

A former print journalist, Sean joined The Hodges Partnership in 2003 and leads Hodges’ media relations team. He manages media relations strategy and helps place client subject matter experts on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and more. Sean regularly helps place op-eds in top-tier papers like the New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today.

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