Does the title of this blog sound strange to you as a PR lead or journalist in media ? Working with media typically has two sides to it. When pitching a story, the PR lead feels compelled or challenged or asked to deliver a story for their client, brand, business, person or organization. When pursing a story, the journalist feels compelled to deliver news, gain interest, get readers or viewers, expose something, create interest in the same.

I suppose that some might think that this is how this interaction should evolve. I propose that this is easier said than done.

Where working with media creates tension is that both parties, the PR lead and the journalist, each have their own goals – often times in conflict with each other. The PR lead is driving their message, their story, trying to get results based on their client or internal business needs. The journalist is either looking for a story that they are developing and have called the PR person OR the journalist is responding the request of the PR person to consider the story.

When conflict arises, the PR lead will often be faced with responding to media with a “no comment” or a bland “holding statement”. The journalist on the other hand may get dug in on “their story line”, unwavering in their questioning and determined to deliver the “story” that they intended to deliver. Hmm, the concept of working with media might seem a little strained. Any notion of trust evaporates. What results is a story that lacks content from the perspective of the PR lead and the research and story built by the journalist lacks the real insight into the real background from the PR lead. A story may get written, but not as well rounded if both parties had engaged in more dialogue.

I have always believed that in working with media there is one fundamental premise. There needs to be “news” ! The PR person bring forth a story that is truly newsworthy.

For the PR lead, (and their client) understand that the media is not there to just tell your story. They are looking for news, uniqueness, something “worthy” of taking up space in their paper or for their viewers, listeners and readers. Is the news you have to provide really something that is “news”, or is it just more self promotion that you should really be spending a few dollars on in paid media ? Where is the special interest in the story ? Why will people be interested ? What will get them talking ?

Conversely, for the journalist pursuing the story, the PR lead has a story that they need to deliver for their business or client. There will be messaging, positioning and story lines that the business has approved for the PR person to talk to the journalist about. They will at least want to seek a balanced story on their business. The journalist may have to bend a bit on their story line to get the PR person to fully engage and open up.

By engaging in dialogue and working on a little “give and take”,  working with the media becomes a fascinating process to discover. A strong narrow stance by either party will likely not result in a good place for either side.

What’s not newsworthy ? A few examples of what is not newsworthy would include the following:

  • the same promotion you have been running for multiple years
  • that new “packaging” update that YOU are all excited about but will go un-noticed with the general public
  • you’ve just followed someone else’s innovation (smiles…might be newsworthy for the person you followed)
  • your brand team thinks it is big news (truly check this…again caution on the self promotion trap)
  • you need to correct misinformation (tough to undue what’s been spoken in traditional media…drive it hard through social)
  • someone got promoted (might do for trade publications but generally low interest in the media

What is newsworthy ? A few examples of things that might be of interest and newsworthy:

  • Leading edge innovation…never been done before
  • Total repositioning of a business or brand…a striking shift from the past
  • Change in leadership…particularly if it will impact culture and way of doing business, or they have local relevance
  • “Stunts on promotions”…because they have shock value and create buzz
  • Local impact initiatives…if it is actually something that people will be paying attention to locally
  • High profile spokesperson whether celebrity or public figure…because people are interested in them

All this said, working with media can also be stronger when there is a working relationship between the PR lead and the journalist. Media relations has been eroded over the past number of years because there are less journalists and less general “relationship building” occasions for media and PR folks. Another consequence of “rules” is that some of the social occasions once deployed are no longer “acceptable” to the media managers and editorial departments. Being entertained or provided some hospitality is seen as perhaps having an influence on the objectivity of the reporter. I suggest “bunk” to that positioning. I think when reporters/journalists and PR folks have a working relationship they can move beyond positioning and messaging and get to working together to create news. They can actually have the “for background off the record” conversation in a trusting context. Strong relationships are far beyond “shmooze”. Relationships are grounded in respect between two individuals for the job that each has to attempt to achieve. By knowing each other on a personal level, richer more authentic communication can surface.

How are you working with media ?  @FergDevins @DevinsNetwork