Amith Prabhu: The PR professional-Journalist changing equation

27 Jan,2014

By Amith Prabhu

Public relations evolved as a profession in the aftermath of the world war when several propaganda specialists were jobless after the huge event and realized they could apply their minds to help brands that would utilize their talents in the ’40s and ’50s to sell more. In the last 60 years, PR has come a long way from being a profession that deals with media to enhance a brands visibility through editorial engagement and stunts to offering advice on reputation management, community relations, corporate governance, crisis counsel, internal communications and much more. In this ever evolving world, how the PR professional of 2014 makes the most of an important stakeholder – the journalist.

I have seen how the animosity between two important groups of professions has increased over the last ten years I have formally been in the profession and I don’t think it is about a blame game or one-upmanship that makes this topic interesting. It is what we can do as two groups to make things easier. Remember, a newspaper can have 30 journalists covering a wide range of topics and now imagine each of them gets an average of 25 press releases a week or five a day or perhaps fewer on Mondays and Fridays and many more between Tuesday and Thursday.

How do journalists begin to respect the PR professionals they have a disdain for? How to PR professionals get together to engage with journalists better and do not come across as people to keep away from? How do both these groups that from time to time depend on each other make things work better given the flux of brands, organisations and people getting into the ecosystem?

I do not have a magic recipe. I would like this to be a starting ground to find some practical solutions. I hope a day comes when one doesn’t bad mouth the other.

Ten things that PR professionals focusing on media relations can do to make things better –

a)      Learn more about the journalist you want to engage with by following him or her on Twitter and understanding their style

b)      Read their articles, watch them on TV in order to get a better sense of what they cover

c)       Know their style and temperament and never call them on their mobile phones unless they have given you permission to do so or they happen to be friends

d)      Never spam inboxes with press releases and attachments for obvious reasons

e)      Create smart media lists that are updated every two weeks

f)       Meet journalists to mutually know each other better and not just to push client news

g)      Treat them as equals and never as superior or inferior in order to share mutual respect

h)      Be professional by making appointments, being punctual and sending well-drafted emails

i)        Read and be prepared about your organization or that of your client’s. Ill-informed communicators are a disaster in waiting.

j)        Lastly, to never mix the personal with the professional. There is nothing really off the record.

This is not an exhaustive list. I invite you to send in your suggestions to add to this. May there be more harmony between journalists and PR professionals.


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