I suspect I’m about to sacrifice a few sacred cows here – consider yourselves forewarned.
I used to be a working journalist. I say working journalist because it never really leaves you. Or at least in my case, it hasn’t. I spent 11 years on the road reporting, on the Chief of Staff’s desk and reading the occasional weather bulletin and news update. When I resigned to start gtmedia, colleagues joked I was crossing to the Dark Side. Dark Side of what, I’m still not sure…
After seven years of running a strategic communication firm, I have come to believe that good journalists and good communication advisors needn’t be sworn enemies. It doesn’t have to be us and them. There is much that can be achieved with a bit of mutual understanding. Sound a bit like marriage counselling? Perhaps…
I’m not naive either. There are plenty of times where what a journalist wants and needs is headed on a collision course with what the advisor is prepared to say or even authorised to say. But folks, that is a discussion for a WHOLE other day….THAT is not about Us Vs Them, that one is about the authenticity of the client, their strategic approach and a whole bunch of other issues. Like I said…one for another day.
Back to the task at hand. In the interests of promoting good cross industry relations, here’s my perspective from BOTH sides of the fence.
To the PRs and communication advisors
- If you’ve never been a working journalist, make it your business to understand how a newsroom works, and what a journalist needs. Consider it vital professional development.
- Don’t tell fibs. It will eventually bite you on the culo and will end up being worse than the original sin. Add to that, you will develop a reputation for being untrustworthy.
- Don’t ask to see/approve/vet the copy before it goes to print. Ever. It’s not paid advertorial, it’s news.
- Deadlines are deadlines. For a reason. Respect them, and where practicable, honour them.
- A journalist is an invaluable resource to you – don’t p**s them off. Build authentic relationships with those in your network, based on two way trust and exchange.
To the Journalists
- Not everything is a conspiracy. Sometimes it actually takes an advisor three hours to track down the right person to answer your questions. Seriously. Sometimes it does.
- Some advisors may not understand your world – make an effort to explain it to them
- Please don’t tar us all with the same brush – there are good and bad PRs, just like there good and bad journos.
- Understand that great advisors can actually be a really good resource for you – if you take time to develop and authentic relationship.
- And one for the greener reporters – don’t assume the advisor you are dealing with hasn’t done your job before you. There are a few of us out there.