Of all things that get you off guard, nothing beats that feeling of helplessness when someone pulls off something you are supposed to know but didn't learn in school. It happens to everyone, and PR practitioners have their fair share of surprises.
The public relations industry and journalists have an intangible relationship, one that is dependent on a perception of mutual advantage and respect for an unwritten code of ethics. However, during media relations, journalists often act indifferent to what PR agencies are pitching. While their complete lack of attention often has to do with the story, there are other contributing factors that public relations practitioners seem to have forgotten.
Here are several things that often get PR pros baffled and frustrated while dealing with journalists. Some you may be aware of, others not.
Off the Record
This simply means a piece of information that may not be publicly disclosed. While you may tell a journalist to keep what you are saying off the record, they may not entirely consider it so, which is why establishing ground rules for such a scenario upfront is highly commendable.
The best advice, however, is this; don't say it if you don't want it reported. Remember that the next time you have an interview or when you are socializing with the media.
This is a media release shared with the media in advance of its publishing date. PR agencies occasionally issue embargoed press releases or announcements to journalists and hope that they honor it. However, that is often not the case. Although some journalists will wait until the date is due, others will simply ignore the embargo, and have it published!
Consecutively, media release with a stamp that says "For Release After" often suffer the same fate. As such, it is always mandatory that as a PR practitioner, you speak to the journalist and make a request that they honor the embargo.
The so-called prestigious media outlets or major news organizations may not always agree with your pitch and when this happens, there is only one other entity that can save the day; the minor media houses.
Sometimes, limiting large corporates to major news houses and offering small enterprises to minor media houses gives no room for establishing great relationships with reporters. It is, therefore, important that every PR practitioner treats the lesser media like they would the most-prestigious media. Don't forget that even the journalists at major media outlets rely on the lesser media for stories.
No PR, No Journalists
There is a misconception that PR practitioners carry; that content creators cannot thrive without their help. They couldn't be more wrong. There is far too much legitimate news that flood the media, which are not PR-pitched. The reality is, content creators can survive without the help of the PR team. PR cannot survive without them.
PR pros wouldn't be able to spread awareness about their client's activities if there are no reporters to help. The two fields, although somewhat considered dysfunctional, share a symbiotic relationship that is far too important to disregard.
Your Agency and Title
I bet no one told you in school that working at a top PR agency doesn't mean that journalists will jump at the opportunity to interview you upon contacting them. What matters to them is the story, not the firm you work for. Similarly, your title might impress your mother, but not the media. All that matters is that you establish a good relationship with journalists if you want to get an in with the media.
One other bonus thing that you ought to remember is to make it clear is how you can be reached when you are off work. PR pros have normal working hours while journalists work around the clock. Letting them know how you can be reached helps you maintain a good relationship with them. It also fosters credibility.
Above all, be helpful, and always be there. Avail yourself round the clock if possible, regardless of whether it is the weekends or holidays, especially if a reporter is seeking clarification on something or needs more information. While it may seem like a bother, it will build your career gradually.