How I learned to stop worrying and love journalists

There was quite a lot on Twitter last week about what journalists hate about PR people and vice versa. An interesting view considering that the two industries support each other. While I can’t speak for journalists I am happy to admit that PR industry still has a lot to get right in this critical relationship.

I’ve decided not to use this blog to add my contribution to what PRs hate about journalists. This isn’t because I daren’t, it’s because I would struggle to think of much. As in any walk of life there are exceptions, but generally it’s a case of give respect and get respect; understand who they are and what they’re interested in and respect that.

The main reason I think PR people are derided by the press is that they don’t get the point of news and reporting. Generally speaking the media reports on real things, tangible evidence and fact. PR falls down because it doesn’t spend the time getting under the skin of the organisation, individual or client being promoted to find the real stories that will genuinely interest the journalists they care about.

I am not talking about helping the media dig dirt here; just getting to the real gems of opinion, innovation and testimony that the media won’t get anywhere else.

Granted it’s not solely the PR people’s fault. Organisations, bigger ones especially, get over protective of their ‘crown jewels’. Too many agendas, procedures, corporate rules and regulations exist; thinly veiled evasions stifling PR creativity and stopping the real positive stories about an organisation getting out.

I recall telling a former client that I had worked with their ex-internal PR manager in a previous job. “Hmm, nice guy, but he always seemed to be thinking about the media’s needs, not ours,” he said. This is very typical of the kind of corporate attitude that good internal PR people and agencies face. There’s a lot of knocking down doors and overcoming non-truths to get to the best stories.

But in truth many PR people don’t dig hard enough, we look for easier alternatives. These often manifest themselves as heavily ‘constructed’ of stories that fall down at the first puff of media hot air. I prefer to put creativity into rolling my sleeves up and getting my hands dirty searching for PR gold rather than trying to pull the wool and fabricate something. And believe me the process of selling a story to the media becomes much simpler when it’s actually real and relevant.

I love good journalists because they give us good PRs a challenge. I love good PRs too – they’re the ones that know how to rise to the challenge.

– Rob Skinner

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