Journalists can be self-important, rude and at times downright mean when dealing with PRs. I know – I was one of them once.
Having recently moved across to PR I now see the frustrations from the other side of the media fence, so I read Matthew Gwyther’s piece this week with interest.
Finally, I thought, someone calling out his fellow journalists and urging a bit more mutual understanding between hacks and flacks. Then I read beyond the headline.
I agree wholeheartedly that journalists should not name and shame online. It’s unnecessary, cruel and achieves absolutely nothing. There’s also no need to be rude to PRs pitching stories, who are normally junior staff members simply doing what their boss has told them to do.
While journalists are on tight deadlines and often don’t have time for irrelevant press releases, they do need to understand that the person on the other end of the line is under pressure too. Barking abuse down the phone achieves nothing. If you know you won’t cover a story, politely say so. Don’t pretend you might look into it then get annoyed at any follow-up calls.
Both sides need to accept they need each other, stop sniping and start meeting in the middle. While PR professionals do generally earn more than their journalist counterparts, that alone does not make them worthy of respect. If anything, it’s the opposite.
The majority of journalists are poorly paid, often working evenings and weekends, so it’s no wonder they fly into a rage at the latest ‘happy Friday’ email when they’re working throughout the weekend ahead.
There’s a perception among journalists that PRs have an easier job for more money, working 9-5 Monday to Friday without a care in the world. Of course anyone within the industry knows that’s not the case, but lazy emails and irrelevant pitches do very little to challenge that.
If PRs want the respect of journalists they need to earn it by being good at their jobs and giving journalists what they want and need, rather than a barrage of worthless rubbish.
If a PR can’t be bothered to write the correct name of the journalist in an email, why should a journalist be bothered to read it?
If a PR decides to call the business desk just as George Osborne begins giving his Budget, of course they’re going to receive short shrift.
If a PR emails an entertainment journalist with reaction to the latest employment figures, the journalist is going to delete your email without passing it on.
It’s PR 101, but it’s alarmingly common and gives all PRs a bad name. Instead of complaining that journalists don’t like them, PRs need to up their game.
Do your research. Know who you’re talking to, what they cover and who their target audience is.
Ditch the rambling and irrelevant emails. Keep your press releases succinct and make sure your ‘news’ is genuinely newsworthy. If a journalist says they’re on a deadline, don’t ignore their emails. If you know they want pictures and video, send them over.
And journalists; please play nice.
Daniella Graham is news and conversation editor at Mischief PR