When you first start out as a PR, journalists can seem a bit scary. Particularly when you have clients and bosses wanting you to deliver. But it’s important to remember that they have column inches and broadcast time to fill. So here’s some tips from an old PR bird that have helped me to become media friendly.
Be open and approachable
I’ve met some PR people who are so protective of their brand they aren’t willing to even vaguely consider contributing to stories when they’ve not initiated the contact via a press release and can therefore undertake everything on their terms. It’s testament to a good relationship when a journalist can just call you up and chat through an idea that you hone together and when it’s delivered, everyone benefits.
Mass distribution of a press release smells as dodgy as a decomposing rat in an alley. Some of the best coverage I’ve achieved in my career has been through tailored approaches to key contacts. Even if you need to secure coverage in many places for the same story, at least think of something slightly different you could offer your top targets.
Do what you say you’re going to do
Trust in a PR / journalist relationship is everything. If you promise spokespeople or access to locations that add value to the story, make sure you deliver them. Nothing is more irritating than a journalist telling their editor what’s been secured, only for you to change your mind or over promise. And it’s unlikely that journalist will trust you again and if that’s a key title, that’s one bridge well and truly burnt.
Try and do some second guessing
Different media have different demands and a good PR will plan for these. If it’s a radio opportunity locations that are quiet are sometimes are good as those that have some contextual background noise to them to enhance the story. Having spokespeople who are well trained and briefed is vital. Choose a selection of interesting voices too to add contrast and colour. Plus, be equally creative in filming locations. Suits in offices add nothing to a story whatsoever.
As hospital PR I would often get the national BBC news stopping by covering health related stories. Even when our organisation wasn’t specifically involved. But it made sense and the journalist needed the right backdrop. I made certain I was friends with hospital security and car park attendants. This meant I could book a satellite truck parking spot within easy reach of where we were filming. The BBC loved this special treatment. It always got things off to a good start when they could just drive in and get started.
Creating good relationships with journalists and being media friendly takes time and effort. But the rewards are excellent. Such solid relationships are particularly useful when you have a crisis scenario. Being able to have in-depth conversations with contacts you know well can really help with balanced and objective reporting.
Bending over backwards to deliver the details has won me some fabulous plaudits. I am particularly proud of the moment when one BBC editor completely unexpectedly emailed the hospital chief executive to sing my praises – and needless to say, the coverage was pretty good too!