As a PR professional, part of your job involves providing the media with information about people and topics that are relevant to what they write about. If you are a PR pro working for another company or organization, or a professional like me with many different clients, it is imperative that you stay attuned to the rapid changes in the way that members of the news media gather and report information, in order to remain knowledgeable and valuable to them.
Here are seven tips for enhancing your value to journalists:
1. Know who can provide the right information - Based on what you know about a reporter’s area of interest, be sure to position the right person in your company or your client’s company as the thought leader or person of interest for a potential interview. The head of your organization or your client’s company may not always the right person to do this. They may not always be the best suited person for an interview. PR professionals can add value by knowing the right person to present to a journalist depending on the subject-matter.
2. Don’t just understand the topic; understand the business - Stay current about what is going on in your company’s or your client’s industry and marketplace. Be aware of trends and learn more about different positions within your business so that you are able to provide appropriate perspectives and context to a journalist.
3. Build relationships outside the information exchange process – Build relationships within your company or organization and within the surrounding community with locals and media contacts. Not only will it help establish trust and build a foundation for future relationships, it will keep you on the pulse of what is going on so that you can be on top of news and trends as they are happening, or perhaps even before they happen.
4. Know how journalists prefer to receive information - Each journalist has a preference for how he/she receives a press release or media pitch, whether it is by phone call, email, or even through social media platforms such as Twitter. As a PR person you need to make it your business to know how the journalists you contact prefer to receive information and use those channels as often as possible.
5. Understand that being over-involved in a journalist’s communication process can backfire and hurt your credibility - Journalists often mention their frustration with PR people who insist on approving interview questions or sitting in on reporter’s interviews and frequently interjecting. Any good PR person knows that they have little control over a journalist’s delivery. If you try to micro-manage the process it may turn out to be the last interview you secure for your firm or your client.
6. Be truthful and factual - PR people fill the vital function of providing multiple perspectives to a story. There are always different ways to see an issue but the facts are clear cut and you need to stick to them. If a PR person misrepresents information to the media, it will be difficult to re-establish credibility in the future.
7. Educate your CEO – Find an opportunity to educate your CEO or company or client decision makers about your role and what you do. CEO’s and other members of upper management are very busy and may not have time to communicate with their PR people. Help them understand how public relations can help the organization at all levels and in all departments – PR is definitely not an isolated function.
Staying valuable in a changing media environment is vital for PR professionals. Follow these tips to help you enhance your value to your employer, to your own firm and to your clients.