Mastering Media Relations: The Journalist’s Take on a Winning Strategy
Journalists and public relations (PR) professionals have a complicated and nuanced relationship. Journalists rely on public relations professionals for information about the companies, organizations, and individuals they cover, while public relations professionals rely on journalists to help disseminate their clients’ messages to the public. Both groups have their own goals and objectives, and their relationship is frequently marked by tension and mutual reliance.
Despite these differences, journalists and PR professionals need each other. Journalists rely on PR professionals to provide them with information and access to sources, while PR professionals rely on journalists to help disseminate their clients’ messages. The relationship between the two groups can be challenging, but it is also important. By working together, they can help ensure that the public is informed and that the interests of companies, organizations, and individuals are represented in a fair and accurate manner.
PR pros need media friends more than ever. 2023 promises to be equally challenging. A report from PRdaily through numerous journalists’ Twitter feeds to review the tips and requests they’d shared this year. Thankfully, they were generous with advice. Here are 10 tips to up your PR game in 2023.
• Speed up
It’s really true — journalists are busier than ever and slow response times understandably drive them crazy. Ask about deadlines and try to meet them. And anything you can do to reduce back and forth (such as having exec availability on-hand and including options when you first offer a briefing) will be appreciated.
• Articulate your value
Media are looking for founders and PR folks to be able to explain what a company is doing, how it makes money, and how it differs from competitors, including those that are better funded and better known. And the explanation should also be clear and concise.
• Take exclusivity seriously
Original content means just that: content that’s original, that hasn’t been published elsewhere, and that’s unique to the publication. When pitching a byline, give editors time to respond and don’t submit the same byline to multiple publications.
• Hold the line on embargo times
This isn’t a moral issue, it’s just a practical one. Journalists get hundreds of emails. If they’ve agreed to an embargo time, and you change it, there’s no guarantee they’ll see the updated time. Make everyone’s life easier and stick to an embargo time once you’ve started pitching.
• Ease up on protectionism
Asking for more context about the story or for questions in advance when the media inquiry is inbound is one thing. Asking for questions in advance when you’ve pitched a journalist won’t fly. If your exec is nervous enough that this is an issue, consider some practice sessions before putting them forward.
• Exercise caution on trends
The trend is your friend if you’re first to the party, but within days — sometimes hours — it will be over. For example, the metaverse and quiet quitting were legit trends that turned into big stories this year, but journalists were overwhelmed with the number of pitches they received long after these trends were no longer new.
• Focus on the new
A journalist can only write a story once, and isn’t going to write the same story that a rival journalist wrote, so offering commentary that could have fit into a story they or another journalist has already written is a non-starter. Instead offer something new, or something that genuinely builds on what they’ve done.
• Know your journalist
Pitching someone who’s just been laid off or is on family or sick leave, pitching a journalist an “introduction” when they’ve already written about the company or executive, sending pitches to journalists no longer at publications, pitching a story to someone who never covers that topic (or did so only temporarily as a pinch-hitter) — these all signal to media that you haven’t done your homework.
• Choose your channel
With more journalists using multiple channels (Mastodon, Post, WhatsApp and Signal come to mind) be mindful of how they prefer to use these channels. Some journalists appreciate receiving messages on LinkedIn while others hate it. Mixing up personal and professional channels is a particular frustration, so don’t use a journalist’s personal email address or DM them on Instagram unless you’re positive that’s how they want to be contacted.
• Slow down
The complaints are legion, the stories cringe-inducing: the mass-merge email that still contains a placeholder (“with your coverage of X…”), the pitch on privacy and security that cc’d dozens of rival journalists on the same email, the pitch sent from an email address that blocked responses, the cold pitch with read receipts visible, the automated follow ups that continue despite the journalist having given you a clear yes (or no) — in 2023, take a breath.
Story Outline: PRdaily