Although most people associate him with circuses, P.T. Barnum is also acknowledged by many experts as being one of our country’s first successful PR practitioners.
PR’s come a long way since then. Though symbiotic, the relationship between PR professionals and journalists has survived over the decades even though today’s media’s speed and diversity appear to be accelerating a decline in trust and credibility.
Some observers suggest that many of today’s press releases are more promotional than newsworthy. An editor at the Houston Chronicle told a News Direct/PRWeek survey earlier this year that only about 10% of press releases he receives are relevant.
Add to this an expanded menu of outlets calling themselves news organizations but with specific agendas, not to mention today’s 24-hour news cycle.
While each profession serves different bosses with dissimilar end goals, both aim to disseminate accurate information to a broad audience and usually under quick deadlines.
Reporters subscribe to fair and unbiased reporting while PR folks adhere to PRSA’s code of ethics. The difference lies in what each profession wishes to leave viewers or readers with.
Trust in PR folks has become a major hurdle as less than 10% of journalists surveyed said they always trust information in releases compared to nearly 81% who replied “sometimes.” 6.5% said “never,” and another 3.2% “rarely.”
From a journalist’s perspective, this makes work more frustrating trying to sort out facts from the pitch. The media still wants credible news that appeals to its audience without sounding like a commercial. It’s PR’s job to make that connection.
As in personalizing consumer communications, brands need to do the same with the news media. The focus should be directed to those media outlets whose audience best connects with the company’s products or services. Releases should be tailored with that in mind so editors can quickly see the relevancy and audience connection.
Many successful PR professionals are former journalists. The reason is that in their new profession, they’re able to think like journalists and suggest why a particular product or service would be important and newsworthy to that media’s audience. Think like one.
The News Direct/PRWeek survey also polled media pros who revealed some of their good and bad favorites. The most popular way they wish to be contacted is email, followed by LinkedIn, Twitter, phone calls, and Facebook.
On the other end, they said the most flagrant mistake made by PR folks was not researching the media outlet before pitching it. Feeling pestered ranked high up there as following up too much was ranked second.
The next five in order were supplying outdated content, not providing enough notice on a story, promising exclusivity to more than one media outlet, using too much jargon, and not supplying supplemental materials like video, images, and/or infographics.
Because many PR firms and practitioners use wire feeds, the survey also polled media pros on what would grab their attention. The top choice was a headline that was catchy and informative but not embellishing. The second was a forthright lead, free of jargon, acronyms, and insider references.
An important third was relevance to areas or topics covered by that media or reporter. The final two recommendations included introducing an interesting or surprising fact in the introduction or subject line and the insertion of exciting, different, or novel words that what’s normally used.