There have been a number of articles lately about the horrible relationships between PR pros and reporters. This is, of course, based on the countless bad PR professionals out there who are making it hard for the rest of us, including the reporter who has to deal with them.
However, when we are not hating each other, sometimes friendships are formed. Not all reporters and PR pros are at odds; some work well together. Let’s face it—we work together daily and sometimes talk more frequently than you do with the co-worker in the next cubicle. Forming relationships is almost inevitable if you are a competent PR pro.
“I understand that reporters get abused a lot,” says Maria Cucciniello, founder of The Hip Event. “It can’t always be about what the PR person needs or wants for our clients. Just as with any professional relationship, it needs to be mutually beneficial for both parties.”
It takes time and effort to show reporters that you are working with them to share information that can help them professionally. Do your job well, and you may find that the water-cooler conversation spills into a phone conversation with an editor. Or a comment about the weather gets dropped in a reply from a reporter. You can break down barriers by being a reliable resource who is easily accessible, knowledgeable, and human.
“There are a few reporters that I work with frequently that a relationship evolved naturally,” says Rob Foster of Strata-G Communications. “We know each other on a personal level. It is not uncommon for us to talk about our family, and I feel that it is a result of my credibility as a PR professional.”
Many PR pros and reporters have formed friendships that transition from work hours to after hours and through job changes. Sometimes personalities just click, regardless of what side of the press release you are on.
“As a reporter on the other end of the phone, a PR professional who knows the publication and the audience goes a long way,” says Christian Moises, news editor at New Orleans CityBusiness. “It allows a journalist to be able to trust that source and know not only will they pitch stories that are relevant to the publication’s audience but that they will be able to get the information they need in a timely manner.
“That connection can oftentimes lead to a blurring of the lines and becoming too comfortable, but the true PR professionals know how to manage that relationship.”
After dozens of phone calls and hundreds or thousands of emails each day, it is hard for a reporter to tell a good PR pro from a bad PR pro. Here are a few tips to help a reporter see that you are a high-quality public relations professional:
• Always deliver what you say you will; your word means everything.
• Be responsive and understand the tight timelines that reporters work on.
• Know that not every pitch will get picked up. Don’t beat up the reporter for doing his or her job.
• Understand that favors are rarely asked for and never expected.
• Be a resource, not a pest, even if it leads them to contacts who are not signing your paycheck.
• It is better to admit that you don’t have an answer for a reporter rather than waste his or her time.
• Clients may come and go, but your relationships with reporters will last your career.
• Reporters are people, too. Play nice in the sandbox.
“I have formed relationships with a few reporters, but consider those lines are separate” says Melissa Keklak of MMKpr. “I do not use that to an advantage. … I would never ask them to pull a favor and put their reputation on the line, and vice versa.”
Linzy Roussel Cotaya is a New Orleans based public relations professional with a social media hobby. Her resume includes a mix of ad agency and nonprofit experience. Follow Linzy on Twitter, @zzcrawfish, or at www.crawfishtales.com. A version of this story first appeared on the blog PRBreakfastClub.