Journalists, PRs and Cake

There’s been a bit of a ruckus between us PRs and them journalists recently over in the twittersphere which somehow I completely missed…

After reading Jed Hallam’s post about this ‘full and frank discussion’ on Rock Star PR, 5 Things that Traditional PR can Learn from Online PR, and Charles Arthur’s insightful post looking at the hack/flack relationship, it reminded me of something I learned at University doing that journalism degree.

Both hacks and flacks are in the same business – we convey information, we are communicators. For a PR, it is on behalf of a client who is trying to put a particular message in the public arena, for a journalist it may be an investigative piece describing malpractice, or a news item relating to high political drama, or a feature looking at the best sunglasses to suit you in the winter.

As a journalist, I was told, you need to hear it, see it or feel it it to report a story. Sometimes of course that just isn’t possible and if there are 45 companies releasing their financials on the same day, it is unlikely you’ll want to speak with a spokesperson from each one at their press conferences.

This is of course where PRs come in, relaying that announcement. Be it about grannies using buses more often on behalf of a travel client, or the latest hi-tech wizardry to come from a company that no-one has ever heard of, a PR is likely to have written a press release about it and distributed it for journalists to read, and hopefully, write about.

The problem is, of course, that a journalist has very little time to sit and read each detail so they must eliminate un-newsworthy releases and focus on the newsworthy ones. How they do this is, in itself, an art – knowing what will make good copy is perhaps more important than making the copy good.

Which is why it is unbelieveable how badly PRs and Journalists get on, although it is understandable. Pushy PRs are just as bad as grumpy journalists, if not worse. But, without one, the other would have a diminished function. No longer could journalists (and it is a minority) push out requests on Response Source or Source Wire with the expectation of hundreds of e-mails to come flying back at them, and without journalists we’d be swimming in a sea of badly written news announcements that consumers would quickly learn to ignore.


By Kenton Dyer

By Kenton Dyer

Image courtesy of @Kenton Dyer, see his further work here.

PRs and journalists are very much like neighbours. And like Neighbours, journalists like good ones. So, to extend the goodwill, the PR likes to pop round every now and then with a cake (it’s my analogy and it’ll be a lemon cheesecake thanks very much). But, just because a PR is coming over with an offering of a cheesecake, it doesn’t mean that it’s not going to be badly made or taste horrible.

However, the problem is, you won’t know immediately if it tastes bad or has the consistency of tar until you bite into it.

But, why should you bite into the cake if you don’t trust the PR bringing you the cake in the first place?

Which is why, as a PR, it is important to cultivate your mutual relationship first so the journalist trusts you, and as a journalist, it is important to give your neighbour time to get to know you so they bring you big tasty cakes, and don’t keep throwing mouldy old scones over the fence in frustration.



2 thoughts on “Journalists, PRs and Cake

  1. If by ‘cultivating the relationship’ you mean behaving professionally, I couldn’t agree more. Not calling at deadline time, familiarizing yourself with journalists’ topics of interest/expertise and with their medium and its ‘take’ (liberal, populist, hyperlocal, global, national, you name it), not calling or pitching the wrong journalists, not respecting preferences in the way journalists want information, not being an ill-informed pest on the PR side – agreed.

    But you’ll be waiting a long time for a lemon cheesecake from me. Unless I suddenly acquire a cheesecake producing client. :)

  2. Hi Ruth, thanks for the comment, it’s greatly appreciated. Agree with your points entirely – it’s just a shame that sometimes lazy PRs let the good ones down!

    I also think, as an aside, every PR team should have a lemon cheesecake client. In fact, if there are any lemon cheesecak manufacturers looking for some PR help, i’m more than happy to be paid with the aforementioned lemon cheesecake.

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