Communicate to accumulate: Solving the PR paradox
Public relations professionals and journalists have an unorthodox relationship.
Symbiotic, if managed well, it can frequently be characterised by frustration and even conflict.
But, as PRs overwhelmingly outnumber journalists, the onus is increasingly falling on the former to provide the latter with more reason to appreciate their innate value.
Though hacks vs. flacks is depicted as an age-old battle, its hard to see how one profession could exist without the other. Both professions operate in very different areas of the media, and, while journalists chase their stories, a PRs responsibility is to carry out due diligence to engineer theirs appropriately.
Worryingly, many journalists dont currently believe that PRs are doing this. In fact, so much so that a recent survey conducted by PRWeek comprising of 300 respondents from both sides of fence revealed that 46 per cent of journalists either disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that PRs are good at their jobs.
To get their message across, as well as to secure impactful and influential coverage for clients, PRs need to respond to these concerns. Doing so successfully will ultimately be mutually beneficial for all parties involved.
PRs may not be journalists, but it doesnt excuse a lack of intrinsic understanding when it comes to the mechanics of the news cycle. Recognising the importance of the foundational principles of communications when pitching isnt just more effective – its a basic courtesy.
Put simply, this means careful consideration of the who, what, when, why, and how.
Taking the time to gauge a journalists opinion on a particular angle over the phone as opposed to just hammering home a pitch, quizzing them on the kind of content theyre particularly passionate about, and performing online research to see which topics specific journalists have focused on and why are a number of practical ways of doing this.
Naturally, high quality and concise writing skills are vital, although for any PR, whats more indispensable is the ability to extract a story from whatever material theyre presented with – regardless of how minimalist it may be – and endeavour to develop a narrative that can cut through the noise.
However, this doesnt necessarily mean shying away from challenging a client to provide the most newsworthy information possible.
Crucially, investing substantial effort and resource is fundamental to creating the true semblance of a story and winning over todays media, which is already bursting at the seams.
Journalists stand to gain much from this too. Negating open collaboration with (and even expressing hostility towards) PRs could result in them missing out on a multitude of insightful and dependable sources of expertise. And, just as PRs should be sympathetic to the editorial strain of newsrooms, so too should journalists appreciate the weight of financial pressure on an agencys shoulders to deliver results, and fast.
In 2016, the UK PR and communications industry was estimated to be valued at £12.9bn – over £3bn more than it was three years earlier in 2013. As the industry specialising in enhancing and defending reputations, extending its arm of influence in the media must go hand in hand with expanding its global commercial footprint.