Journalists give PR people a raw deal by not including links in their stories

I have recently witnessed a lot of conversation between PRs and journalists on the issue of asking for links in coverage.

Journalists are not fulfilling their end of the deal in the transactional relationship they have with PR people, argues Grace Garland
Journalists are not fulfilling their end of the deal in the transactional relationship they have with PR people, argues Grace Garland

'This is not the way to do PR', say journalists, screen-grabbing a digital PR exec politely asking if a hyperlink can be included in their latest piece of coverage. 'Urgh - how awful', chime the traditional PRs in their mentions, agreeing that the brand coverage alone should be enough and dismissing the request as ‘unclassy’.

But on the sidelines of this discussion are the increasing number of PRs that have links in their KPIs.

For us, a brand reference is not enough - not because we don’t see the value in it, but our stakeholders don’t.

When I started out in PR it was understood that in exchange for the images created on our six-figure shoots, our clients’ products would be listed alongside information on how to purchase.

We populated the magazines with lovely imagery; in return, our clients generated direct sales.

We now live in Google’s world and so the currency has changed – in return for our content, data, imagery, case studies and quotes, we now ask for a hyperlink.

The relationship between PR and journalist has always been transactional, and by not including a link you are shortchanging the PR – it’s as simple as that.

The good news is that as long as the link is to a page that compliments the article and gives value to the reader, it only enhances the article.

Why then, does it seem like I have just broken a taboo when I request a link in coverage I have worked really hard to deliver?

It’s not only that they won’t include the link, journalists seem insulted by the request.

This makes it really tricky for the PRs who have links in their KPIs and have to ask for them.

It doesn’t matter if the journalist thinks ‘a mention should be enough’, or how strongly we agree with that sentiment: if your boss or client asks for links, then that is what you need to deliver.

The truth is that most PRs doing the grunt work of pitching don’t have the liberty of setting their own success metrics – they need the links to keep their jobs.

Journalists, likewise, shouldn’t have to think about anything but writing great stories. If anything is to blame here it is Google, which has rendered every other metric meaningless.

The happy outcome to this would be that the Google Gods found a way to evaluate mentions as well as links, and we can all forget about this footnote in internet history.

Maybe then I can go back to replying to successful pitches: 'Thanks, can’t wait to see it!' instead of: 'Thanks, is there any chance you could link to...' – which, for the record, I like doing as much as the journalists like hearing it.

Until then, please, spare a thought for us – and pop a link in your editorials. Preferably to startups.co.uk or Movehub.com.

Grace Garland is PR director at MVF

Now read: In defence of journalists refusing to include external links in their stories

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