Seven steps to making a journalist happy

Public relations people should call back, but not on this phone. Via Flickr user GenBug.

Public relations people should call back, but not on this phone. Via Flickr user GenBug.

Journalists make fun of the public relations profession all the time, but public relations people are a big part of reaching the right people.

Working on the journalism side of life, I speak with PR people frequently. Dealing with a good PR person is a dream. He gets you the right people at a company to talk to, sends high-resolution photos, pitches story ideas, and responds to emails and phone calls in a timely manner.

Then there are the terrible PR people who you have to fight to talk to.

If you’re in public relations, here are seven tips you should know to make a journalist happy — which will ultimately make you happy.

  1. Respond to emails within one business day. Let’s say I’m writing a story and I need to talk to three airlines. I email the PR people of 10 or more airlines. If I don’t hear back from you within one business day, I write you off. I assume you won’t reach out to me, and I would rather deal with the PR person who emailed me back within a few hours.
  2. Don’t ask me to send you my story before it’s published. I’m not doing that. You should know better. In fact, I’m not sure who is saying yes to that request.
  3. Offer to send relevant, high-resolution photos. This is like a dream. I love getting photos to publish with stories. If you have any, send them to me.
  4. Pitch story ideas I would actually do. Keep in mind the publication and its audience. Don’t give a story idea that is just fluff or doesn’t fit the news outlet’s focus.
  5. Don’t tell me I have to “get permission” before I quote you. What do you think an interview is for? We’re speaking on the record, and you tell me I can’t quote you after we’ve been talking for 10 minutes? That’s not going to fly.
  6. Be aware that I have a deadline. I can’t wait two weeks to talk to someone. I only want to have a 15-minute interview. You really can’t fit me in somewhere?
  7. Be courteous. You would think this one would go without saying, but I’ve contacted PR people before only to be brushed off. One time when I called a PR person, she asked why I would call her with my request when it really was more for the marketing department. I asked for the department’s number, and she told me to find it myself. Lesson: If you’re not friendly, I won’t be so apt to call you for future stories — even if you’re a well-known company.

PR people, these are the steps to making a journalist happy. A happy journalist will call you more frequently, meaning your company will make the news more often. And isn’t that what you want?

  1. L said:

    Don’t send out press releases about a story when the main subject is on holiday, too shy to be interviewed or too busy to spare the time. This sounds really obvious, but it happens at least once a month!

    • Amen! Also, when you reply to someone about a press release they sent, and you get an automated message that they’re out of the office.

  2. Silently screaming about PR ineptitude one evening, I compiled some advice to help publicists to place stories with the NE London news website that I edit and, of course, to prevent my screaming out loud. I suppose what makes a good impression from the start is the email that opens by addressing me personally.
    Your advice, Miss Solomon, is excellent and friendlier than mine. But then, I had a few ales on board when I scribbled my thoughts, although since little notice has been taken of them, I think I shall leave them there in the minute hope that something will get through.

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