What isn’t discussed as much is how often the feeling is mutual.
The intro to a piece I read this week went like this: PR pros’ animosity toward members of the Fourth Estate ranges from mild disdain to unbridled contempt.
Methinks the intro was drafted as clickbait; the article itself, while interesting, wasn’t so provocative. Even so, the topic caught me by surprise.
I’ve worked with a lot of reporters over a lot of years. Most have been great to work with. Sure, I’ve dealt with my share of jerks, but such folks skulk through journalism and PR no more than they do through pawn shops and smoothie kiosks at the mall.
In this era of newsroom downsizings and clicks over content, I have deep sympathy for journalists’ daily (and often thankless) burden. A chronic dislike seems neither fair nor productive.
Whatever side of the fence you’re peering from, we need to better understand what the other person requires and how we might benefit each other.
For the media part of my work, it’s my job to know what reporters want and how my client’s story might fit. In other words, it’s not about simply getting “good news” for my client, but uncovering the elements that have meaning to the news media and their audience. That’s a better outcome for everyone, including the client – and especially in a crisis situation, where responsiveness, transparency and a shared commitment to accuracy are crucial to informing the public and preserving a company’s reputation.
Perhaps the hate on journalists comes from PR pros who lack the fortitude to tell a client when a story isn’t newsworthy. In that scenario, the reporter becomes a barrier to making the client happy. And when the client isn’t happy, neither is the PR pro.
Yet I see it as our profession's responsibility to be that honest. Yes, I will do everything possible to find the pieces that are newsworthy, that resonate with the media and the target audience. But if they aren’t there, I have to make that plain. Is that a fun conversation? Nope. But it’s the right thing to do. No good for anyone – least of all the client – comes from the futile attempt to bully a reporter into making a story out of something that isn't.
The simple fact is this: PR pros and reporters need each other. Let’s release our prejudices and peeves, embrace a little empathy and work together to accomplish our respective missions.