PR professionals and journalists depend on each other to do the best job, but that isn’t to say it’s always the easiest relationship in the world. Sometimes journos see us as pests, while PR people get frustrated at being ignored. While most of the time, most of us rub along just fine, sometimes it can feel like a bit ‘can’t live with them, can’t live without them.’
I’ve often thought we all need to spend a few days in each others’ shoes; a sort of ‘Wife Swap’ if you will, but instead of living with someone else’s family for a week, you’re in their office, seeing the daily challenges their job brings. However, until Channel 4 come knocking at my door for the rights to this programme, we’ll look at ways to keep journalists happy, and therefore more likely to use your story.
Here’s what I’ve found has helped to strengthen those relationships over the years:
Provide images before you’re prompted
Naturally, the importance of this varies depending on what sector you work in, but strong images can be the difference between a yes and a no. It gives the journalist one less job to do, and might just be enough to sway them towards working with you over someone else.
Similarly, if a journalist asks for high res images, do make sure that they are in fact high res, rather than simply hoping they won’t notice! It’s also a good idea to make sure these files are named as descriptively as possible, and to ensure you’re sending all the information about the photos they might need, such as product details and prices, or names of people in the pictures.
Cite your sources
Few things are scarier than a journalist scorned, and providing data or facts that haven’t been cited, or worse, incorrectly cited, is a very quick way to get in their bad books. Not only are you jeopardising your chances of being used this time, but for future pieces too.
It’s also important to think about where your data is coming from too – is it a reputable source that the journalist is going to be happy linking to, and have you checked it’s not from a competing publication?
If a journalist is working to tight deadlines, or has several pieces on the go at one time, they’re unlikely to hang around until you’re ready – especially if they have other options. Always, always meet the deadlines you’ve committed to, and if you can, try and respond to follow up questions in a timely manner too. Once you’ve proved yourself a reliable source, they may well approach you more in future too.
Offer an interesting viewpoint
Unless you’re a seriously big name in your field, stating the obvious and providing safe, generic quotes, is unlikely to get you featured. If the journalist in question has a number of people pitching to them for a particular piece, you need to stand out, so think about what everyone else is likely to be saying, and think about what else you could offer. You don’t have to be controversial, but offering an opinion and thinking slightly laterally can make a big difference.
Go the extra mile
If a journalist asks for quotes, give them quotes, but also attach images they may need. Or if you know of some research that might also work well to back up their piece, suggest that too – even if it doesn’t benefit you. The easier you can make their lives, the better, so thinking ahead and preempting what they might need or might ask for next, makes you much more useful, and therefore much more valuable, to a time poor journalist!
Think about the details
Have you proofed everything? Have you provided full names and job titles for anyone you’ve quoted? If you’re setting up an interview, have you provided possible dates? Have you checked your facts? Spending a few extra minutes at this stage to get things right could save you both time in the long run.
Don’t chase (too much)
It’s a fine line. Most journalists are very vocal about the fact that they don’t appreciate being chased – if they’re interested, they’ll get back to you. I do think that while it can be tempting to drop a quick follow up email, sometimes thinking with a long term relationship in mind is better, even if you think your story has legs.
I think where it becomes a bit more blurred is if you’re already engaged with them. If you’ve worked together before and you know this would normally be right up their street, I think it’s ok to drop (just one) friendly, no-pressure follow up in case it’s slipped between the cracks. Where possible, it’s great to use this opportunity to offer something extra, so you’re adding value, not simply chasing.
The relationship between journalists and PR experts is crucial for both parties, and understanding what they want and need will only benefit you in return. Read more about what journalists want from PR specialists here.