Journalist Secrets for PR

See on Scoop.itPR, Social Media and Marketing

We have a hard time keeping up with e-mail. This isn’t an earth-shattering secret. I’m sure PR pros have a hard time keeping up with e-mail, too.

Maurizio Fantato‘s insight:

I don’t know about you, but these days I feel the number of articles on how to deal with journalists is on the increase.  This is one of several, though this time written by an insider.

In my many years in marketing, communications and PR I have come across countless journalists. For my sins I have even raised one up.  So I am somewhat closer to the profession, if anyone can ever be because one of the key things I have learnt about this body of people is that it’s made up of fiercely independent individuals.  You can approach them in any way you like, provided it’s their favourite one (email, phone, fax, postcard…  it doesn’t matter, they each like something different).   Their individuality may also explain their innate dislike of press releases.  They may publicly, gritting their teeth, admit to their usefulness (seldom that they like them), while always nitpicking about ideal formats.   In reality they loathe them, as they prefer scouting for news themselves and like all boyscouts they’d rather eat their own burnt sausages, than buy ready made ones.

Finally, I think many communication experts live in awe of journalists.  This may be because some of them may have always longed to be a journo themselves, but I may be wrong of course.  In any event this tumultuous love/hate relationship is a complex one and for these reasons this topic will continue to generate many more articles.

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Welcome to the World of PR

(as published in the NUJ Oxford and District Blog – May 27, 2013)

Welcome to the World of PR

I currently work in agency PR, having transitioned from in-house PR and MarCom a couple of years ago. My specialism is also B2B PR, with a further focus on engineering, science and technology. This means that I seldom deal with urgent news (except in incidents or accidents) and also that most of the information I digest and process on behalf of my clients is highly factual. My clients are scientists or engineers and my journalists are also for the most part specialists in their own fields, so precision is of the essence. Nevertheless, the message needs to be engaging (and these days also highly visual) so one of our daily challenges is how we can extract true features and benefits in a concise and absorbing manner, bearing in mind that some of the stuff may also have to be condensed into microblogs (a form of blogging but based on short content like Twitter and Facebook updates).

Occasionally we have to deal with a situation familiar to most PRs in which we are asked to produce ‘non-news’ releases. This is often the case in companies where personalities, instead of good marketing, rule. In the vast majority of these cases we are able to persuade a client that it would be against their own interest to do so, or simply apply other tactics to stall and avoid issuing such releases. However, recently my company was fired by a newly acquired client for not pandering to the wishes of their MD to publish such froth. When a month later the newly appointed PR agency managed to get that company in Private Eye under the ‘Desperate Marketing’ section, we felt vindicated.

The most difficult situations are those involving multiple approval processes across several organisations. You can guarantee that every PR and divisional manager will want to have a say and use a different angle. We have had instances of case studies having been delayed for a year or so while they were ‘under review’. Yes, not exactly the sort of cutting edge stuff that hits a newsdesk… more like the gestation of your classic academic paper!

But aside from any misunderstanding between PR and journalism, we want to work to the best of our abilities to enlighten and instruct our audiences, providing them with good sources of useful and newsworthy information. There are of course rogues in any profession.

In the world of PR, just as in journalism, our main challenge these days is the advent of digital communication. With technical media being increasingly published online, backed up by social media presence and our own clients’ social media channels, there is an awful lot of noise out there. So our job is made a little more complex as we need to spend a lot longer listening, evaluating, pushing and of course reporting too. And these days reports go way beyond basic stuff like Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) as well as entailing other metrics like Audience Engagements and more. Not that all this huge amount of data replaces the old common sense approach and an innate instinct for news… but it just makes our job easier when we have to persuade financial director on how they should spend their money. Welcome to the world of PR.

End of print media – the sequel

Those of you who are following my blogs will remember that a while ago I wrote at length about the demise of local media.  The undisputed decline of printed media is currently reflected in the 30% reduction of newsroom staff and the 50% downturn in advertising revenue. No industry can sustain such high levels of decline, so radical measures are required if good journalism is to be preserved.

This topic was the focus of a talk run by the PRCA in London on May 15th, presented by John Ridding, CEO of the Financial Times who explained that faced by such crises many newspapers have adopted two strategies.  The first one, followed by the majority of the press, he defined as ‘cut and retreat’.  This approach is self explanatory, you cut your costs to the bone and retreat.  The problem with this approach is twofold.  On the one hand, in order to continue to survive newspapers have to chase public whims, rather than carefully curating high quality news content for the public interest.  Secondly, there are few commercial examples that a drastic ‘cut and retreat’ strategy has ever been able to create successful commercial organisations, at best just extending their demise.

The FT decided instead to take a different approach, one of quality and specialism, investing massively in high quality curation and retaining high levels of presence in key areas of the globe.  For example, in South Korea the FT office is now one of a handful of international media organisations present in that country, as opposed to being one of dozens a decade ago.  In addition to highly targeted quality content, its digital delivery has been pivotal to the success of the FT in recent years, contributing to its exponential growth particularly in overseas markets.

Mobile technology has further expanded the FT’s presence to the point where this paper has now close to 3.5 million App users alone.  But it’s in data management where the FT excels.  Its business model has been a clever one insofar as users can freely access a very small number of articles per month, provided they register.  This kind of data is highly valuable as it’s of high quality, as well as being ‘clean’ (unlike some social media data, for example).  Patterns of behaviour are constantly emerging from the data in question, enabling the FT to provide accurately targeted services in response to the needs of its readers.

From a marketer’s perspective this approach is music to one’s ear and really pretty basic stuff, like listening to your customers and prospects, meeting (as well as exceeding) the requirements of your market and carving a niche for your product or service, instead of being a generalist.

What is surprising is why other news providers have been so slow in adopting similar approaches, vying for the attention of fewer readers by appealing to their baser instincts instead of attempting to enlighten them through high moral principles and a public service ethos.

Whether this hubristic approach will result in the demise of even more titles remains to be seen but I am sure that if all the UK press had adopted a similar model to that of the FT we would never have ended up with a Leveson enquiry.