Can PR pros and reporters be friendly?

Some reporters and PR pros seem dead set on believing that the relationship must be adversarial. This author thinks otherwise.

There seems to be a lot of talk about how reporters dislike PR pros. Is the supposed uneasy relationship between reporters and PR pros real, or just a lot of hype?

If you believe articles like this one, you’re in the same camp as many in the PR field. On a recent Twitter chat when this topic came up, the overwhelming majority of participants seemed to believe that reporters don’t care for PR pros or see value in what they offer.

There are those of us, however, who have had a different experience. We believe there are ways to foster a healthy relationship with reporters. While there may be those in PR who don’t give the rest of us a good name—by sending pitches without doing research, failing to proof what they send, pestering a reporter to death and the list of PR “don’ts” goes on—there are those of us who honestly rarely feel that a reporter views what we offer as a negative.

So, how can we as PR pros get on a reporter’s good side? Here are some ways to be of value:

1. Attitude matters. Have the attitude of truly wanting to help them. Be a resource for them. Be genuine in your interactions. If you approach it as if you’re helping them, everything will be in that spirit. If you’re offering a good story or good source, it truly will help them.

2. Send something of value. This is where research comes in. If you do some digging and find out a reporter is covering a topic that relates to your client, you can reference that in your pitch. If you know that a reporter likes to talk with customers, you can offer that as part of your pitch. If you know a reporter likes exclusives, offer him or her something you’re not offering anyone else. That’s how you offer something of value. If you give the reporter something he or she can use, chances are that reporter may call on you in the future.

3. Make the reporter a priority. Yes, reporters get special treatment. That’s because they are special. They should shoot to the top of the priority list, for you and for the client. Making them and their needs priorities can help your client, while not doing so can definitely hurt your client, who may be excluded from the story.

4. Be trustworthy. Be a person of your word. If you promise something you can’t deliver, that doesn’t develop trust. That’s why it’s important to be sure of your resources before you offer them. Be sure to confirm the executive’s availability before you offer an interview. Check on that high resolution image before you offer o send it. There’s little worse than offering something to a reporter only to find out you can’t deliver. Even though it may not be your fault, it’s your responsibility to ensure the availability of what you’re offering before you offer it. Also, answer questions honestly. There’s no reason not to tell the truth, because what will probably happen is that the truth will come out anyway. Be upfront from the beginning. If you don’t know the answer, promise to find out and get back to them, then do so in a timely fashion.

5. Follow through. That means do what you say you’ll do. Did you promise a customer reference? Be sure to deliver. Offer to send a product for review? Ship it right out. Remember, reporters are a priority.

6. Honor deadlines. If you know a reporter’s deadline is 5 p.m., get the info they need to them by then—earlier, if possible. Don’t get back to them the next day. The opportunity may be gone if you don’t respect the deadline.

So, can PR people prove themselves of value to reporters? In my experience, the answer is yes—most certainly, reporters and PR pros can have a good relationship. What’s your take? Michelle Garrett is a PR consultant and writer at Garrett Public Relations. Follow her on Twitter @PRisUs or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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