In my published work and on social media, I’ve established myself as something of a PR vigilante.
As one of my PR contacts says, I “graciously take action without naming the offenders,” and try to give an honest picture of the worst PR interactions we reporters meet with.
It’s nothing personal. Bad tactics are bad tactics, and sometimes I feel the need to call them out.
A few recent examples from my Twitter account:
For those who haven’t worked with me, I may seem like a PR hater. I’m not! In fact, I have good relationships with many PR professionals.
Here are a few of the wonderful things my favorite contacts do. I dedicate this article to the PR people who do their jobs exceptionally well and always go the extra mile for both their clients and journalists.
1. They’re flexible with story topics.
Clients have a story to tell, and they’re excited about telling it a certain way. But the angle they pitch may not be what a publication looks for.
When a reporter says, “I don’t think we can do this, but I have another story your client could contribute to,” good PR pros will think quickly and convince their client that any press, even if not the kind they planned, is good press.
2. They ask us what we’re working on.
A few PR contacts I work with rarely pitch me anything new, but their clients pop up all over my publication. What’s their secret?
My contacts are proactive and reach me about once a month to ask what stories I have on deck. Because I don’t cover breaking news, I plan my editorial calendar about a month in advance; chances are we can find a good fit.
3. They remember our beats and research our recent coverage.
Every journalist hates getting irrelevant pitches. The best PR pros never email a reporter something that doesn’t work with her beat. It takes a few back-and-forths to understand what a writer does and doesn’t cover, but once the best pros figure it out, they commit it to memory. Bonus points if they mention one of my recent articles when they suggest a similar (but not identical) topic.
4. They’re honest about their clients.
As middlemen, PR pros are in the tough position of making both clients and the media happy. Reporters appreciate honesty about the people they interview, so give us a heads up about what the client will, won’t and shouldn’t talk about. Also be willing to change directions if a client isn’t as good a fit as you thought.
I once had a PR pro send back email interview responses from a different client because she didn’t think the answers from the original source would be what I was looking for. Without my asking, she found something better.
Believe me, a reporter will remember that.
5. They’re interested in building genuine relationships.
My favorite part of working in media is the people you work with can become more like friends than business associates.
I have a handful of PR contacts (you know who you are!) for whom I will bend over backwards simply because they’ve gone out of their way to be friendly. These are the people who ask me about my interests outside of work, comment on something funny I shared on social media and talk to me without constantly trying to pitch me. If they’re in the area, I’m always happy to meet these people for coffee, drinks or even puppy playdates. Even though we’re professional contacts, it never feels like work to help a friend.