December 7, 2016 David Shamah

Hey, Journos: PR People Shouldn’t be the Enemy

Mother always said look both ways when you cross the street – but what about working on both sides of the street? Having had what some (actually, maybe only mother) would call an illustrious career in journalism, I’m now privileged to be working at GK, on the PR side of things, with the folks who help provide the fodder that is the bread and butter of much of tech journalism.

It’s interesting to see now how things work from the “outside,” and to put into context some of the thoughts and feelings I had about PR people when I was a writer. Make no mistake: The relationship is a very symbiotic one. Both PR and press need each other, the former to get the word out to the public about their clients, the latter to reap content and information that goes into news, opinion, and even investigative pieces.

Interestingly, both sides think they know what they want/need from the other, but not all on either side do – or if they do, they don’t know how to supply it/ask for it, whether it’s exclusivity (press), a commitment to write a story (PR), clarifications of information/facts (press), a chance for both sides of the story to be heard when something negative is going to be published (PR), etc.

Often times, both  sides look at the other as “an other” – an alien, perhaps even a semi-enemy entity.

That’s a mistake, though. PR people and press should work in harmony – and they can, as long as they remember that their job is to keep the other guy “happy.” By that, I don’t mean that writers should slavishly produce positive content to please a PR firm, or that PR people should go overboard on sucking up to reporters (been there, done that, and it doesn’t work). As a reporter, all I wanted from a PR firm was a fair shake – a straightforward story, quotes I can use, real information, as opposed to a sales pitch about how great their client is. Ultimately, I wanted to work in harmony with PR firms to help produce a story that I could point to with pride when I attached my name to it. I think the same holds true for most journalists writing about technology (and other topics) today.

The corollary goes for the PR side – respect the journalist by pitching real stories that are relevant for their beats, give him/her the information s/he needs to get their work done, care that you are taking their time and understand that they are investing themselves in your client’s story. Being here after being there has made this crystal clear to me: PR and press are in it together.

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