Ever since I entered the PR and communication industry people around me have often asked me if journalists and PR professionals can become friends.
In the first place, it is unfair to ask this question. Since friendship is based on a personal relationship, it is rather out of context to argue if one can make friends in the professional environment.
Having said that, I’d say that the answer to this question is never a definite yes or no. While it is possible to build long-lasting relationships with media contacts and these do transcend into friendships at times, it does not happen for every relationship you build with the media.
The relationship between journalists and PR professionals is like marriage. It could be good, it could be bad. It could be somewhere in the middle.
Your approach towards PR is based on how you build your media relationships. If you are creating a long-term relationship that is being built on trust and understanding – your media relations will go a long way. But this kind of PR needs investment of time.
The more you work on it, the more your media relations will flourish – bear in mind, this is a relationship like any other. There are always blind corners. A good PR pro is always ready to help, fix and manage his or her media relations.
As a PR pro, you will find more similarities between yourself and a journalist than differences.
A journalist must be a good communicator and an even better writer. Journalists works on daily deadlines just like PR teams.
A journalist will always be looking for new stories to write about, collect facts and seek out information. Now if you are a PR guy or gal, you can relate to all that – because that’s exactly what we are required to do everyday. The biggest chunk of our jobs is to provide timely, accurate and authentic information.
Much like a PR professional, a journalist is expected to work round the clock. Stories break out at any time of the day and media knows no weekends or days off. Both PR people and journalists have to nurture their appetite for news and keep abreast of the latest happenings in the world. In many ways, they are not very different from each other.
I would not go into listing the differences because the differences are dependent to a large extent on either the employer or the way of work at a company.
Looking at similarities, it is safe to say that journalists and PR professionals could be considered two sides of the same coin. Stories can get out from either ends and both journalists and PR professionals rely on each other for news and information. Even when they don’t get along so well, they are often working towards the same cause.
I believe it is important for both journalists and PR pros to create, sustain and nourish a healthy professional relationship. Whether they can be friends or not must be left up to the individuals.
I would like to mention a few skills that will help you get noticed in the eyes of journalists and earn their respect. Following these skills could be your ticket to building better media relations.
Tips to build rapport with your media contacts
Never lie to a journalist. If there is something you don’t know – say it up front and ask for time to research it internally and get back in a timely fashion.
If you can’t do it, say so! A journalist lives one day at a time in his professional life. If he cannot get the information he needs today, he may not need it at all.
Be upfront about managing expectations. Ask what the journalist needs exactly and how this will contribute to the story. Work on the precise requirement and get back to him quickly. Be vigilant about information and the facts you share with your media friend.
Remember this one. Treat your journalist colleagues with respect. Working in the corporate or for a big company does not make a PR pro any better than a journalist. They deserve respect for getting your word out there using their own resources. Appreciate their help and support. Build the spirit of teamwork with your media stakeholders.
You need the journalist as much as the journalist needs you. Try and find out what each journalist is interested in writing about. See if he or she is good with numbers, facts, investigative reporting or features. Help him/her with the stories accordingly.
Keep a look out on what your beat reporters and journalists have written about recently.Stay abreast on news, updates and the latest happenings in your industry. Journalists feel a sense of pride when they get an exclusive story and those who respect and understand this have an edge as a PR pro.
When you send written material to a journalist, be short and to the point. Keep it concise and relevant. Any additional information may be shared separately. Say what you have to in the first few lines to convince the journalist to develop an interest and report the story.
Never push a journalist if he doesn’t want to write about you. Wait it out. Try later with a different subject to write about.
It is kind to wish the journalists you work with at ceremonies like Eid, Christmas, Holy or other rituals depending on the their beliefs. Mark their birthdays in your calendar and make the effort to extend birthday wishes.
If you are connected with journalists on social networks, keep in touch. Share updates and news. Keep it casual and colloquial. Social media is a good place to build casual relationships and share information about yourself and your organization without a formal ‘press release.’
Last but not the least, act as a door between the journalist and your organization. Make sure your spokesperson and management is available for any statements, clarifications, interviews or other queries. If you can help out the journalist here, you are helping him keep his job – something your media friend is sure to appreciate and remember.
Here is an interesting infographic that talks about dos and don’ts for interacting with journalists.
This infographic was first published here.
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