4 Ways to Make PR Pay Off — and Not Peeve Off Journalists

Kelsey Cheng headshot

The relationship between PR professionals and journalists can be complicated.

Consider Twitter, where there’s no shortage of reporters taking to their feeds to roast PR pitches with often hilarious and occasionally expletive-ridden rants. On the PR side, we have our own ways to deal with getting rejected — or even worse, “ghosted” — by reporters who want nothing to do with our pitch. 

The truth is that there’s an inherent tension between our job as PR professionals and the work of our newsroom counterparts. My recent conversation on TechCrunch’s Equity podcast with reporters Alex Wilhelm and Natasha Mascarenha discussed that tension. 

Despite what Twitter rants may have you believe, journalism and PR have a symbiotic relationship — reporters look to us to provide them with timely, accurate information, and we need them to drive relevant media coverage for our clients.  

Understanding our love/hate relationship with journalists is central to understanding how PR works — and how it can work for all parties involved. When it’s done right, PR doesn’t only pay off for companies, it also pays off for reporters and their readers. 

With that in mind, here are four ways you can make PR work for both your organization and newsrooms:

  1. Know your goals.

    PR isn’t always the right move for your organization. Knowing what you’re trying to achieve will help you determine which marketing programs will work best and which to pursue later on. 

    For example, if generating leads is your number one marketing goal, maybe content marketing or paid media is what you’re looking for. These are especially great options because newsrooms have shrunk in recent years and earned media has become more difficult to secure.

    On the other hand, if you need to boost brand awareness, build credibility or establish yourself as an expert in the industry, PR can bring real value to your business. Coverage in the right media outlets provides a level of credibility and third-party recognition that other avenues can’t match.

  2. Recognize what reporters need to do their jobs. 

    More likely than not, reporters won’t share a draft of their article in advance of publication. They may also include your competitors and other industry voices in your story, and they often write in a style that differs from your organization’s boilerplate. 

    Ninety-nine percent of our job on the PR side is knowing how reporters do their jobs and knowing what they need to do it. Understanding what journalists are looking for in a story makes it easier to understand how you can be a part of that story. In most cases, reporters are looking for something “newsworthy” — whether it’s relevant data or access to proprietary information, a unique perspective on the industry or a fresh, interesting angle to a trending issue. 

    And not surprisingly, reporters love news that’s new — so keep your pitches timely as well as relevant.

  3. Measure, then measure again. 

    Historically, PR is difficult to measure and it’s challenging to quantify its impact on the bottom line. That puts CMOs in a sticky situation when it comes to explaining the value of PR to their colleagues in the C-suite. 

    To solve this problem, take advantage of technology that allows you to track, measure and optimize PR in ways never possible before — whether it’s analyzing competitor coverage or tracking email open rates. The result is clear analytics and objective measures that allow us to set realistic KPIs and articulate the ROI.

    With business leaders rightfully scrutinizing the bottom line, the necessity of measuring PR efforts is essential. Fortunately, we are in a better position than ever to justify how our efforts pay off.

  4. Buy-in for PR to pay off.

    PR doesn’t only entail pitching your company news or offering a product demo — it involves crafting a narrative around your business and finding ways to insert that story into ongoing stories and trends.

    That takes buy-in from every part of the organization, especially top leaders who will need to dedicate time to media prep and interviews, and provide the resources necessary to maintain a sustainable program.

Ultimately, the most important part of PR may also be the most difficult: trusting the process. 

When we work with reporters, it’s not a transactional interaction that results in a story 100% of the time. In reality, even the best pitches go unopened because a reporter doesn’t have time to read them or a major story broke or some other factor beyond our control got in the way. At the end of the day, storytelling is an art, not a science. 

So, we focus on building strong, trusted relationships with reporters over time. That marque story in the Wall Street Journal or TechCrunch is often the result of months, even years, of work. We’re willing to put in that kind of work because when that story finally does go to print (or online), it’s worth the wait. 

To learn more about how Walker Sands can make your PR efforts pay off and add value to your bottom line, contact us today.


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