Siddhartha Mukherjee: Media Relations is dead! Long Live The…

21 Apr,2016

By Siddhartha Mukherjee


Till the time the corporatisation of media does not become a complete reality, which hopefully is a long way to go, media or journalist relations will continue to hold prime importance towards a brand’s perception management within the editorial news and views segment.


However, when compared with how our generation maintained relations with journalists, what is followed by today’s generation of PR professionals is as good as dead! Barring a few genuine cases, a majority of today’s industry professionals consider journalists simply as a “means” and not a “customer”. As a result, there is no interest or willingness to know or understand this “means” beyond the elementary details such as name, publication, designation, beat and the contact details. Treating this person as a customer would have made a world of difference.


I remember that my generation (and my seniors) always believed in executing media relations with the maximum possible personal touch – a basic example being that of meeting journalists personally. On an average day, more than 50% of our work time would get devoted to visiting/meeting the journalist personally and having a two way conversation/discussion.


Today, however, this personal touch is missing. Emails, Whatsapp, phone calls, and more importantly, lack of personal meetings has eroded a PR professional’s ability to have a fruitful, holistic discussion about the ecosystem that the client brand survives in. Conversation is largely one way. The journalist does not have a reason or urgency to meet the PR professional.


No wonder then, in most of the PR firms that I know of, the health of the PR firm’s relationship with journalists is managed and guided by seasoned professionals who belong to the old (our) school of thought.


If journalists are today’s (and tomorrow’s) potential brand builders, one can’t afford to perceive them as “means”. Before we try to share or convey our story, we need to understand our customer’s (journalist) story. Here, speaking to a journalist approach needs to shift to discussing with a journalist. This needs patience, knowledge, and more importantly, a belief in the discipline of personalized media relations.


I see no harm if, only in this case, PR firms go back in time and take a leaf or two of learnings on media relations skills and pass it on to today’s generation.


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