Good or bad, wanted or not, Valentine’s Day often gets many of us thinking about relationships. After spending more than a decade as a journalist, and more recently working on the PR/communications side of things, the BOCA team and I thought it would be a good time to take a look at one of the most important relationships in our industry — the relationship between PR professionals and reporters.
Here are four things PR pros can do to foster better relationships with their newswriting counterparts:
- Build trust. For a relationship between PR pros and reporters to thrive, there has to be a certain level of trust. And just like any relationship, this takes time to develop. When you first start working with a journalist, you may not know their motives, writing tone or themes, so you may be a bit nervous putting a client in front of them. However, after some time you may begin to realize that the journalist consistently delivers fair and honest coverage, at which time you’ll begin to trust them more and more. It’s certainly a two-way street. Both PR pros and reporters need to earn the trust of each other over time, and it’s not something that happens overnight.
- Be honest. This goes somewhat hand-in-hand with building trust, but the strongest relationships between PR pros and reporters are built on honesty. Again, this works both ways. For reporters, it’s important for them to be honest about things such as deadlines, publication dates and the angle they’re looking to write about. On the PR side, it’s key to be honest about things including the availability of clients and the ability to track down information on deadline. Of course, as PR pros we’re often at the mercy of our clients. They may say they’re available to talk before you promise some facetime to a journalist, only for the client to flake out and leave you as the one who has to deal with an annoyed reporter. These situations aren’t always avoidable, but when it comes to your relationship with a reporter, it’s typically best to under-promise and over-deliver. This will help build trust quickly.
- Communicate. This may go without saying — we are in the communications industry, after all — but an important factor in a healthy relationship between PR pros and journalists is open and honest communication, on both sides. For PR people this may mean letting a journalist know that a report or product release has been delayed, and for reporters it may mean communicating that a deadline has changed or that editors have decided to scrap a story altogether. Whatever the situation, both PR pros and reporters should be committed to communicating with each other quickly and openly should anything of significance come up. It doesn’t have to be a 10- or 15-minute phone call each time. A quick email or text message is often enough to get your point across, and the open flow of communication will be appreciated by all sides.
- Be there in good times and bad. This isn’t exactly breaking news, but not all relationships are sunny and happy 100 percent of the time. Just like any relationship, there may be times when the rapport between a PR pro and a reporter suffers. This is bound to happen at some point, and when it does it’s incumbent on both sides to act in an adult and professional manner. In fact, professionalism is the ultimate key here. On a personal level, a PR pro may not care for a senior writer at a particular national newspaper, or a reporter may not be in love with the personality of a particular PR coordinator. However, at the end of the day these are professional — not personal — relationships we’re dealing with. A relationship between a PR pro and a reporter can prosper even if their personal relationship isn’t all that great, as long as both act professionally.
In the end, the keys to healthy relationships between PR professionals and journalists are similar to those of any kind of relationship. Trust, honesty, open communication and the ability to work together through tough times all contribute to creating a productive alliance. Most relationships are not perfect every minute of every day, but if both PR pros and reporters attempt to make use of these basic principles, all sides stand to benefit.