A recent study by the Oriella PR network into digital journalism (you can read the report for yourself here) highlighted that 62% of journalists still use PR agencies as a first point of contact for news stories. The sample size was small with just 478 journalists polled, but it’s good to know that journalists see the value PRs offer.
The vast majority of tech journalists we deal with in our day-to-day business are open to suggestions and appreciate the effort that PRs put into setting up interviews. Our clients and the journalist’s readers don’t see the work that goes on behind the scenes suggesting topics, sourcing back up materials and providing last minute clarification on details.
Over the weekend I read yet another interview in a national publication where the journalist used up a large proportion of their word count bashing the PR responsible for setting up the interview, in this case a face-to-face meeting with the new presenter of a not-so-interesting TV documentary.
The journalist claimed he was so put off by the barrage of texts, emails and phone calls from this particular PR professional to ‘help’ the journalist keep the interviewee sweet that the journalist had pretty much already made up his mind that the celebrity in question must be a self-centred, egotistical drama queen and that the upcoming encounter would go down in history as An Interview From Hell.
Cue even more flapping from the PR on the day of the interview, only to be waved out of the room by the celebrity. PR out of the way, the journalist and celebrity had a good ol’ heart-to-heart about how dreadful PR people are instead of talking about the TV show the celeb was actually there to promote.
The picture painted by this journalist makes the PR sound really unbearable and it doesn’t sound like his celebrity client likes him very much either! On top of that, everyone who reads this particular publication has been led to believe that all PR types fit this stereotype of hyper sensitive, controlling, headset-wearing and clipboard-carrying micro-managers who act as a barrier between journalists and the real world.
Working in harmony
Our job as PRs is to facilitate relationships, disseminate information and maximise the time our PR clients and journalists spend together. Just like the odd bad apple in journalism, there are occasional high maintenance clients and yes, not all PR professionals are well, professional but for the most part, tech journalists and PRs tend to get on quite well and have even been known to enjoy the odd tipple together.
The end result of an interview should be engaging, topical media coverage where the journalist gets useful insight from the time they invested in the interview and where the client feels they got their message across to a key audience – not an overdrawn piece in a national newspaper outlining how ridiculous and unnecessary PR people are when all you really want to know is whether or not a TV documentary is worth staying in to watch.