Magazine article Editor & Publisher

From Both Sides: Five Things Journalists and PR People Should Know about Each Other

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

From Both Sides: Five Things Journalists and PR People Should Know about Each Other

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Joni Mitchell said she was on a plane looking down at clouds when she wrote the timeless folk song, "Both Sides Now" that's been covered by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Tori Amos.

I spent 29 years as a journalist and the last nine on the public relations side and I can fairly conclude both sides too often have an unfair and inaccurate view of the other.

Some journalists think the PR person would mislead or outright lie to get a favorable piece written about their client. Some PR people think every journalists comes to work every day with an agenda. Neither view is true. With that in mind, let me offer five things each side wishes the other side knew.

What PR professional wish journalists knew:

[1] Print journalists are not as important to PR people as they used to be. This kills me and most of the former print people now working in public relations. But our clients are exploring direct messages to the audience they want to reach through social media.

[2] "Off the record" really means this conversation never happened. Most of us have a lot of sympathy for how difficult your job is and we can often tell you "off the record" what's happening and how it might play out. I had one reporter use the information I provided as a "hypothetical question" to the source. I am done with that reporter.

[3] Don't discredit information from me just because I work for one of the sources. I have often had reporters shut notebooks when I offer additional background or sources of information. In order to pitch you, I prepared myself with background. I often know a lot about the topic. I was frustrated with a reporter who continuously told me she knew all about water issues in California because she covered water issues in another state. She refused offers to help with background. Her story was so inaccurate I had a difficult time getting my client to talk to a reporter for six months. I want you to get it right. That helps both of us.

[4] A PR professional is never encouraging the source you want to interview to hide out. Our advice routinely is to "get ahead of the story." We are always advising our clients to do an interview with a trusted reporter or at the very least release a statement. …

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