In my 30+ year career in public relations, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about relationships. After all, “relations” is one of the two words we use to describe what we do every day. Trusted, long-term relationships between editors and PR professionals are at the heart of public relations excellence.
It’s getting harder to develop and maintain those relationships, though. PR moves fast – really fast – and speed and efficiency reign supreme when we’re pitching, responding to news trends, making last-minute changes to press releases and other content, and juggling a dozen other different priorities.
Most journalists work in a pressure-cooker environment, too; editors and reporters change jobs frequently, publications are typically short-staffed, and the number of journalism jobs continues to decline. It’s not an ideal environment for building relationships.
Yet relationships are critical to our wellbeing, both personally and professionally. It’s one of the most important life lessons that came out of the long COVID-19 shutdown, and it applies to both our personal and work lives.
So how can we keep the “relationship” part of PR front and center? Here are a few ideas.
1. Treat editors as individuals
Each relationship in our lives is unique. Our friends have different viewpoints, interests and quirks, and we respond to these whenever we have a conversation.
Editors aren’t all alike, either, and that’s why they get so annoyed at the “spray and pray” mass pitches that clueless PR agencies sometimes blast to hundreds of media contacts. (That’s not the way we do it at Ketner Group, I’m glad to say. For a funny, insightful perspective on this, check out this Slate article about how an editor decided to respond to every single PR pitch for one day.)
As a retail technology PR agency, we know the stories that retail tech journalists are looking for, and we tailor our pitches accordingly. Every editor has specific needs and preferences, and we do a disservice to them and our clients if we don’t take time to understand them.
2. Be responsive
An editor’s world is just as hectic and fast-paced as ours — sometimes more so, and many writers and editors must generate multiple stories each day. Time is of the essence in responding to media requests and making it as easy as possible for journalists.
Is an editor requesting client input for a time-sensitive story? Then move quickly to evaluate the opportunity, brief your client and meet or beat the deadline.
3. Remember what Mom said about manners
Did your mom always remind you to say “please” and “thank you?” Yeah, same here. Common courtesy goes a long way in every area of life, and that includes the workplace. Did an editor include your client in a story that made you look like a hero for landing great coverage? Then by all means, email them to say thanks.
4. Pass along a compliment
When you read a great story that’s not about your client, email the journalist and let them know how much you enjoyed it. Editors and reporters expect to hear from us when we’re pitching them, but it’s a pleasant surprise to get an email that’s not client-related. It also shows that you’re taking the time to read and appreciate their work.
All of us appreciate positive feedback, and journalists are no different.
5. Set expectations with clients
We’ve all dealt with clients that suffer from The Wall Street Journal syndrome, so setting the right expectations for media success is a vital part of managing the client-agency relationship. It’s important for the editors and reporters that we work with, too.
As PR professionals, we should only approach editors with stories that are newsworthy and relevant to their audience.
If we take time to educate our clients and set proper expectations for working with media, they’ll understand what an editor really cares about, and we can tailor the PR outreach accordingly. It makes the editor’s job a lot easier, and it ultimately helps our clients get the coverage they hired us for.
Take PR beyond the transaction to the relational
These suggestions are just a starting point for developing good working relationships between journalists and PR professionals. I’m convinced, though, that we need these simple reminders more than ever.
Most editors we know work remotely on very tight deadlines and are bombarded with pitches, press releases, follow-up emails and Zoom meetings — while working hard and fast to produce great news content.
PR professionals can help by respecting journalists’ preferences, meeting deadlines and adding fresh insights and perspectives to the stories that they’re covering. If we do our job right by focusing on relationships, it helps moves PR from the transactional (“you do something for me, I’ll do something for you”) to the relational (“we’re working together to help achieve both our goals, and we’re doing it in a friendly, collaborative way”).
By focusing on relationships, we can make put a personal, thoughtful touch to what we do every day and make PR work better for journalists, clients and those of us who do it every day.
Do you work for a retail tech company that’s looking for a more effective way to work with editors and improve your earned media? Contact Ketner Group today; we’d enjoy talking to you about how to build better PR relationships.