We all know there's a love/hate relationship between journalists and the PR/marketing function. But when it comes to the crunch, journalists rely on PR professionals to get them the sources of news they need - and fast!

So, what should PR firms be doing to ensure they remain as valuable to journalists as possible and give them exactly what they need? Following a recent no-holds-barred exchange with a prominent fintech journalist, we explore what works and what doesn’t when it comes to getting the most out of this sometimes precarious relationship.

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A major issue is that many journalists believe PR pros are simply too busy selling dud press releases through the wire and mass distribution lists when they should be taking a more considered and varied approach to media outreach. “Most PR folks are very much in the press release mindset and don’t take full advantage of the other communication vehicles that are perhaps more effective,” our source said. Certainly, with the media and communication landscape constantly evolving, PR pros need to make best use of the resources that are available.

A recent survey by Arketi Group found that 92 per cent of journalists have a LinkedIn account. LinkedIn provides an easy way for journalists to connect with sources. It is therefore essential that PR professionals monitor LinkedIn for lead identification and use it to engage clients with journalists regularly to foster closer relationships.

Our source cited LinkedIn – and LinkedIn Groups specifically – as a major source of their information: “PRs should be using LinkedIn to help be as current as possible in their client’s space. Information such as who is using their product or service and what the general feel for it is in the marketplace is often found easily via LinkedIn Groups and, if I can find it, so can you.”

And with the sheer volume of people and opinion that is available, LinkedIn also comes in handy when preparing a client for a media interview.

Integration, integration, integration

As evidenced in the findings of the Arketi Group study, journalists aren’t sitting back and waiting for your news via a press release; they’re out there browsing various online channels to search for it.

Aside from LinkedIn, 85 per cent of journalists are on Facebook and 84 per cent now use Twitter. From a PR and marketing standpoint, this means we must ensure a client’s messaging and news is tightly interwoven with the world of social media. This way, no matter what channel journalists use to source their information, the messaging of the client is conveyed consistently.

Nevertheless, the value of the conventional press release cannot be dispelled. Our source said that they store the majority of press releases they receive because having them on file serves as an excellent resource for checking facts: “Having a document that has the ‘who, what, where, when why and how’ already proofed for accuracy is a huge time-saver for me.” This underscores the importance of adopting an integrated approach to social and traditional media.

Knowing me, knowing you

Another important factor for PR pros is the need to understand more than just the journalist’s particular beat. It’s taught in PR-101 that PRs can optimise their relationships with journalists by making sure they know who they’re pitching to and what they write about.

But here at Aspectus, we’ve taken this a step further by taking the time to get to know our media contacts, their personal time constraints and publication copy deadlines. Knowing whether they’re operating to a daily, weekly or monthly schedule gives us a better idea of when they are most likely to be busy and, crucially, when they might be most receptive to a new pitch. And, while on the topic of pitching, a 2009 study uncovered that PRs and journalists differ significantly in opinion when it comes to defining what constitutes a ‘newsworthy’ story.

So why should you care? The study found that while PR pros perceived newsworthiness to lie in human interest angles, journalists typically did not. It is therefore important to be able to pitch a different angle in order to grab their attention. Connecting on a more personal level with journalists is essential to strengthening the relationship. Again, we try to meet with journalists as often as possible.

Whether organising face-to-face interviews between clients and journalists rather than over the phone, or simply taking the time to say ‘hello’ when at an event, meeting regularly in person enables us to stand out from the PR crowd in the mind of the media.

Maintaining maximum relevancy

Despite the precarious nature of the PR/journalist interface, the fact is that PR pros and journalists need each other. But it is the ways in which we do our jobs that will either strengthen or fracture the relationship between us.

By getting to know journalists, understand their needs and customise our workflows accordingly, PR pros can stay on top of our game and maintain maximum relevancy to the media. With this in mind, we’ve come up with the following guidelines:

  • DON’T rely completely and solely on the power of a press release
  • DO use an integrated approach
  • DO get in valuable face time with the media on a regular basis
  • DON’T just use social media, embrace it

For more on this topic, check out this list of PR pitching don’ts. Or even better, why not drop us a line.

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