“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about” ~ Oscar Wilde
The dictum cited above is true today as when it was first expressed. Try as one might, it is very hard to imagine the media without public relations agencies and vice versa. It is only when this vital cog in the wheel functions seamlessly can clients both big and small achieve their goals.
I have been on the other side of the fence too; and during my years as a reporter I conscientiously sought out press releases that were newsworthy. Though it is understood that public relations agencies are a valuable source of information and access to sources for articles; most often PR personnel tend to assume that any and every kind of information they place before a journalist merits publication. That is sadly not true.
For one, the journalist may fail to understand the depth or importance of the details you have provided; or editors, ever mindful of their finite real estate, will only want articles that will interest a large section of readers. This is when the emphasis should be on one-to-one discussions.
In a different context it has been said that, ‘Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you’re doing; no one else does!’ The same yardstick can be applied when PR professionals seek to reach out to the media. Networking is the name of the game; and once a journalist realizes that the PR person will offer interesting and competitive news items, a strong bond is forged.
Journalists are no strangers to the fact that people from the PR industry who wish to have articles published, or footage shot to be aired on television always do so to highlight their clients in the best possible manner. The element of truth comes into focus at this juncture; for media persons will definitely respect PR persons who are honest, even when it is not entirely to their advantage.
So despite their best intentions, why do PR professionals fail to make an impact at times? One of the reasons newspapers are selective in choosing stories is because their job is to inform and not promote an individual or organization.
Of course, there will always be a select few in the media who will promise to carry a story in return for all things ranging from complimentary dinners to free air tickets to exotic locales. However, PR firms should avoid falling into this trap because it is an unhealthy practice. To explain this plainly — the journalist is doing his or her job, just like you. So what is the need to provide them with perks? If you are in the habit of succumbing to the demands for gifts, a time will come when regardless of the significance of your story idea, it will be shot down — no gift, no article! Which is why it isn’t a bad idea to pitch your ideas to a couple of journalists, just to be safe. Coverage is good. Coverage is important. But it must never be achieved at the cost of one’s integrity.
PR professionals should be on the ball all the time. There can be no slips or deviations in our profession. Staying current with the latest developments in businesses; and keeping an eye out for interesting tidbits of information about clients (that can be converted into a great article) are paramount.
Public relations teams should make it known to media persons that we are not in a game of one-upmanship; but are rather engaged in a profession of mutual considerations and benefit. Because as I explained before, one edifice cannot survive for long without the other.