By: Courtney Fogle (@courtnxyfogle)
In this episode of PR Hangover, a journalist and PR professional share their insights on media relations. Shandra Martinez, former MLive journalist, and Beth Dornan, Amway PR Manager, have worked closely together over the years, developing a bond that all journalists and PR pros strive for! You can listen to this episode here.
Mutually Beneficial Relationships
PR professionals need to get to know the reporter. You should never pitch your story to random journalists without doing prior research about their beat. Shandra and Beth suggest PR pros take a look at the stories a journalist writes, the industries they focus on, and then decide whether or not your topic fits within their work. If your topic isn’t relevant, don’t ask them to write about it.
Shandra and Beth’s relationship developed over time. They each have a job to do within their positions, and they worked together to build a mutually beneficial relationship for both of their organizations; Beth giving Shandra information to publish and Shandra giving Beth access to the media. After getting to know Shandra and the information she looks for, Beth was able to better prepare and equip spokespeople. This created a more productive environment with happier team members and a story that both the company and journalist feel good about.
Honesty and integrity are important when PR pros are communicating with journalists. Sometimes the PR industry can get a bad reputation from malpractice. Journalists are aware that PR pros are representatives of their company or organization, ultimately working to provide information to the public regarding certain issues and topics. Journalists become skeptical when they don’t feel a PR pro is completely credible or trustworthy, mostly stemming from slip-ups and lack of ethical standards. Beth says PR pros should always under promise and overdeliver when working with journalists, never telling a lie or sharing information under false pretences. If you don’t know something, saying “I don’t know, but let me get back to you,” is better than eroding your credibility by bluffing your way through the conversation. Journalists don’t want to have to fact check your every word.
Even though you should get to know the journalist before sending them a pitch, you have to be ethical in your process. Shandra suggests inviting them out for coffee to find out more about what they cover, but you have to know the difference between building a relationship and bribery. Beth says that most reliable media outlets will write objectively, fairly, and accurately. Readers expect a balance of pros and cons in an article, not a biased articulation of a story. Both PR pros and journalists must act professionally and in accordance with their organizations’ standards.
You need to be able to differentiate a benefit versus an individual writing about something they truly believe is a good story. This holds true when dealing with influencers. Beth says that the FTC now regulates the information that is disclosed in relationships to incentives and deals. Influencers must disclose that they’ve received values from an organization. Their statements have to be clear, concise, and present, saying that their post or endorsement is sponsored with #ad in their content. Journalists need to be careful with how they handle the products they test out for review.
Advice from Beth:
- Think like a journalist.
- Flip the perspective to what the media outlet’s readers will be interested in and why they’ll be interested in it.
Advice from Shandra:
- Journalists have to be able to pitch the company and PR person why they should share their story.
- Gain the company’s trust so they’re willing to talk to you during both good and bad times.
To listen to this episode, click here.
Courtney Fogle is a junior studying Advertising and Public Relations. She is currently the Podcast Director for PRSSA and an account associate at GrandPR. Courtney is a singer-songwriter, with hopes to combine her love of music and PR so that she can work in the music industry managing artists and their brands. In her free time, you can find her listening to music or taking pictures of her cat, Oliver.