By: Phill Trewyn
It was a call that many news reporters can identify with and one that usually ends with a roll of the eyes, a shake of the head, or maybe even a few choice words after (or even before) ending the call.
I was working as a print reporter and on the other end was a PR person not so much pitching a story idea but pleading with me to do a story on the topic at hand. It was the second or third call on the matter and it was met with the same response given to previous calls, which was, “No.”
Simply put, there really wasn’t any hard news to report on, and there weren’t any broader applications to consider for a story that wouldn’t cause my editors to roll their eyes, shake their head, or utter a choice word or two at me.
Such experiences taunted me when I made the decision to leave reporting and cross into the realm of those who pitch story ideas to news reporters or serve as human firewalls in times of crisis. Those in the media tease that it’s going to the “dark side.” Others simply call it working in public relations.
The truth of the matter, though, was that I liked and found value working with the person I said no to in this particular case. There was nothing “dark” about them or what they were pitching. I had previously followed up on story ideas they had pitched. See, even before I left journalism to join the ranks of PR professionals, I understood why organizations worked with a PR pro and in some cases, where the PR pro was particularly good, I valued the working relationship I had formed with them.
When I started with Mueller Communications and got to see ‘under the hood’ of a PR agency, I quickly saw how PR professionals can bring intrinsic value to reporters and editors. That was 15 years ago. It’s even truer today with shrunken newsrooms often filled with less seasoned reporters - and inhibited even further by COVID-19’s impact.
A recent survey of nearly 100 journalists by the communications firm Prosek Partners found that reporters are using PR pros as much or more than they did before the pandemic according to a whopping 95 percent of respondents. Additionally, a majority – 61 percent – of journalists surveyed indicated they are finding it harder to connect with new sources, and half of those surveyed said they are relying more on third-party resources, like PR pros, to connect with news sources.
The value that PR pros can bring to those reporting the news has always been there. The key, of course, is ensuring any PR professional you work with knows how to amplify that value.
A good PR professional understands how a media outlet works and what specifically it reports about, along with how individual reporters/editors/producers go about reporting the news and what matters to them. This knowledge, coupled with experience and relationships, increases opportunity for your organization to tell its story in a way that intrigues and engages a reporter’s audience, while also helping to meet your business objectives.
Now more than ever, it’s a critical understanding to have as more reporters cover multiple beats with expectations to generate more content and meet ever-pressing deadlines. Simply put, value from a PR pro comes from having information that is relevant, accessible, and able to meet a reporter’s expectations.
As we like to say at Mueller Communications, reporters aren’t your friend, but they’re also not your enemy. They have a job to do, and the best PR partner for your organization will find a way to help them do that job while also telling your story.
Are your story pitches being met with rolling eyes, shaking heads, or choice words? Let’s talk about how we can change your approach to media relations. Shoot me an email at PTrewyn@muellercommunications.com.