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Publicity and Professionalism

Posted by Christina Schmitz on March 22, 2011

The professional approach to publicity includes keeping media contacts informed of news that is highly relevant to their beat and audience. In the ideal situation, an existing relationship exists between the PR professional and journalist, having worked together in the past to bridge news and resources.

Unfortunately, for the many factors that contribute, this exchange of information doesn’t always end with positive results. Errant press releases lead to infuriated journalists, and ignores from journalists lead to infuriated clients. There is no perfect formula for success, but conducting activities with the highest levels of respect and professionalism is a good place to start. 

For organizations engaged in publicity campaigns: keep in mind that the media will publish what it chooses to be important for its audiences. To publish all of what's important to you, build your own platform and following. You can do this through activities like blogging, online multimedia newsrooms, enewsletters and social media. 

A Reality

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A journalist’s job is not to build awareness for you or your organization. If it happens along the way, then many cheers to go around. Their job is to create engaging content that is relevant to the readers they reach, and satisfies the needs of their beats and publications.

In the past, publicity had its rank in the PR profession because there weren’t other channels to broadcast news and build reach. Now there are online channels, and it's simply time to advance.

Having experienced the highs and lows of publicity from the journalist and PR pro side, it is clear that non-journalists (whether from the client or agency side) can't demand what be published by the media they connect with. We can do our best to keep the media informed of highly relevant news and updates, build strong relationships, and create convenient access points for the pursuit of further information.

From Experience

As a community news reporter, I received unsolicited press releases and pitches. Some emails were inappropriate and irrelevant, but overall I welcomed the engagement and thanked those that made the effort to reach out. But yes, I did sometimes have to ignore and delete emails that didn’t apply, without offering an excuse or explanation.

Fortunately, my PR education clued me in to the value of building relationships with sources: sources that didn't abuse the relationship and had solid information to offer. These sources didn't have influence on where their information went beyond our engagement, but I would proactively reach out to them for news when time, space and relevance aligned. They did their job, and now it was my job to see if and how those pitches matched the responsibilities I had. 

There were also sources that were difficult to work with when I needed them most. If I experienced these things on such a small scale, what do you think each day holds for writers or producers at prominent outlets? Remember, they do have a job to do beyond managing what I imagine is a never-ending inbox of emails and releases. These, however, are the outlets that will likely matter most to your company or clients.

Think about when major news does arrive. Journalists won’t have a problem seeking details, sources, quotes, etc. They don't have qualms about asking sensitive information because it’s important to them and their responsibilities. The same media may ignore the next several news updates you provide. Stop taking it personally, instead, take action.

Build Relationships and Think Bigger

It’s key to work toward building relationships with media contacts. While this is easier said than done, many are now offering ways to follow and connect with them through social media. When possible, it’s beneficial to connect offline and away from publicity activities, or through organizations and events in which you have mutual interests. These types of more personal connections can help your emails be recognized as coming from a trusted source.

Also, think big picture. While you believe your company’s news should stand on its own, from a reader perspective, it’s interesting to read trend stories covering a variety of sources. Multiple sources and angles contribute to a balanced, captivating story, reaching a wider audience. Sometimes sharing the spotlight can mean better overall impact for an organization, especially as you’re building your reach and reputation in a market.

Tell Your Full Story

Consider moving away from solely relying on the media to tell your story, where space, timing and relevance dictate the importance of your news items. There are tools out there to publish the rest of your story, which matters to the audiences you directly serve. These tools are also solid mechanisms to help build critical, symbiotic media relationships, by offering a regularly updated stream of information.

Don't rely on others to do what you can do for yourself today. You might even find, the more you share about your organization, that the media starts to take note.

But in all cases, take the professional approach. 

What challenges or opportunities have you experienced from either side of the coin? What advice would you offer to PR professionals or journalists to create more professional exchanges and mutually beneficial relationships?

Christina is vice president of PR 20/20, a Cleveland-based inbound marketing agency and PR firm. This post reflects her individual experiences as a PR professional and community news reporter. On Twitter: @ChristinaCS

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