Putting the PR in Reporter

Posted By Beth Ann Downey on February 02, 2015

When I was a reporter, I never realized how much time some PR professionals would spend all huddled in a room together brainstorming the best ways to get my attention.

That’s probably because I didn’t really come across many who did a very good job of it.

Not to say that I was a sought-after contact at some far-reaching publication—I was merely a lifestyle writer at a small daily newspaper out in central Pennsylvania. I wrote about local art exhibitions and concerts. I explored the wonderful worlds of vegetable canning and violin making. Mostly, I just wrote about interesting people in the community. But there were a few parameters:

I couldn’t write about an event going on in Philadelphia or New York or Nebraska—no matter how exciting—if it wasn’t taking place in our circulation area, it wasn’t getting printed.

I couldn’t interview a source who wasn’t local about a topic that wouldn’t matter to my audience.

I couldn’t use 98 percent of the information I was pitched by PR professionals, and they should have known that.

There are two different ways media relations specialists are going about it these days. The first is through organic, meaningful interactions with reporters and editors—thought-out and individualized pitches, strategic social media cross-pollination and, most importantly, careful planning. This approach is, as one would guess, more gradual and time consuming than what my colleague described recently as the “spray and pray” method, in which one sends information out to as many people as possible and hopes for the best.

I’m blessed to work for a company that understands the importance of the former approach. Here at Karma, we truly strive to give helpful information to the right people. We get that journalists across all kinds of mediums still have great ideas of their own but the outlets they work for are typically sorely under resourced.

Happily, we have a knack for connecting with media in a way that also helps our clients find a voice about the issues, and to the audiences that are important to them. A few of us are former journalists ourselves, or we’re people who try our best to understand how the profession works, rather than just count clips or hit “send’ on several mass emails per day.

Believe me, reporters; I understand why you have qualms with some of us. I still freelance and just last week I received a pitch that began with, “What’s going on with you this week? Personally I’ve been trying to make the perfect batch of homemade, iced coffee. Anyways…” Before I let my anger boil over, I must remember that there are good PR people out there who send me pitches that really, truly make my job easier.

I strive to be one of those good PR people myself.

Beth Ann is an Assistant Account Executive at Karma and a freelance journalist.