As a PR, I’m well used to having abrupt telephone conversations with journalists and very often, having the phone slammed down at the other end. It’s rude, it flies in the face of all communications etiquette and…..we’re used to it.
That’s not to say we enjoy feeling like we’re as important as a flea on a cat and we relish the idea of picking up the phone, knowing full well it’s probably going to make us irritable and grumpy for a few hours. It simply means we’re prepared for it.
Thankfully, over the years, PRs and journalists have grown to understand each other’s professions, pressures and issues more to the point where I now believe we have reached a truce – in most cases. Ironically, the key has been honest communication.
Increasingly, many journalists end up becoming PRs and for those who weren’t, arguably the best PRs are inevitably trained by journalists (I was trained by Janet Murray at The Guardian – check out her Soulful PR courses on how business owners can do their own PR). This means we all have a greater insight into how people in our industries behave.
Imagine walking into work in the morning, and seeing around sixty emails in your InBox which have arrived overnight whilst you were watching Question Time. No sooner have you sat down to delete the ones titled: “Why my company is great” and “Why you should feature my 50% off headphones” than your boss phones to say you have a story to file in the next 30 minutes. Three minutes later, a rather crap PR phones and rudely asks why you haven’t responded to their “50% off headphones” article they sent you a few hours ago.
You can understand why a journo might be a bit abrupt and shirty.
To be honest, most of the journalists I speak to are absolutely lovely and the rude ones are in the minority. They appreciate that I understand their pressures and try my best to help them where I can. In fact, around half a dozen freelance journalists now regularly work alongside me as account managers, demonstrating the symbiotic relationship between the two professions.
Here’s what you can do to get the best out of your journalists:
- Email, don’t phone unannounced in case they’re on deadline or immersed in a story
- Provide as much info as you can – case studies, interview availability, comments, hi res imagery and contact details
- Be available whenever they need to speak to you – it’s usually urgent!
- Don’t send them crap stories – ie anything promotional or not relevant to them or the media outlet
- Respond to their requests quickly, giving them EXACTLY what they ask for
- Understand it’s not their job to promote your or your client’s business but to provide interesting content
- Feel free to chase a good pitch by email but give the journo at least 24 hours to enable them to filter it out of their InBox and read it. Don’t keep on chasing. If they’re interested but missed it the first time around, that first follow up should do it. If they don’t respond after that, they’re just not interested. Move on
So the next time you need to pick up the phone to a journalist rather than email, think first. Remember to ask if it’s convenient to chat for a minute, don’t make small talk if you don’t know them and get straight to the point. That way, you have more chance of avoiding an abrupt end to the call and you’re more likely to make a great impression.