You don’t own me

If relationships were easy we’d all be in one.

Sixty six percent of surveyed journalists in the PitchIt2Me Media Survey 2012 said that they are more likely to include a product if they have a good relationship with the PR person responsible for that product.

If you don’t respond to their emails or phone calls regardless of whether they are about specific media placement or not, if you leave them off a crucial event invitation list, don’t send them images when requested and if you complain about the media coverage you do get (without good reason) then they are highly unlikely to approach you when there is a future valuable media placement to be had.

Relationships are key. When an editor commissions a piece from a journalist on a deadline the journalist is going to go straight to the PR providers they know answer calls and emails. Period.

It is human nature to work with those who make your life easier. The media are, despite common thinking, human too.

It still astounds me how many PRs simply don’t get back to me, especially those that seem more interested in social status and media ladders of which I am clearly considered on their bottom rung. Of course they’ll be the first to claim the credit should I happen to write positively about their client, but I still won’t receive an invitation to the next media launch.

I’m not likely to attend every event, time is money for a freelance journo, but being invited still makes a journalist feel valued and who doesn’t want to feel wanted? Leaving relevant journalists off your media invitation list can damage a relationship and also prevent the relevant journalist from knowing about your news whether they can attend or not.

When journalists receive invitations to events with a mere two, three, four or five days notice it means one of three things has happened. The organiser forgot to invite you in the first place or they deliberately didn’t and now they don’t have enough people who have rsvp’d yes so you’re getting the second round invitation OR they sent out their invitations too late to get a good response from anyone. None makes the journalist feel terribly special.

It gets even worse if you lie about the invitation stuff up with claims of missing emails and computer glitches because chances are we have media friends who were invited in the first round. The media are human and forgive human flaws because we all have them. A simple ‘can’t believe we forgot to invite you, our mistake, we’d love to see you, can we send a car’ would suffice and ensure no bad blood.

Remember editorial and public relations are not guaranteed coverage. If you want control of what the media says about you then buy an ad. But the truth is editorial is considered three times more powerful (at least) than advertising, and costs a fraction of an ad.

Just because you send a sample product to a journalist doesn’t mean they are obligated to write about it, no matter how many ‘follow up’ calls are made. Just because you sent someone on a famil does not mean you own what is written about your product.

If I write gushing articles about your brand time after time, pretty soon my readers are not going to believe a word I write. My obligation is to my editors first (they pay my bills) and to write objectively for my readers second (without them I’d have no invoices to be paid).

I wrote a balanced piece a while back about a tourism destination/product that didn’t like what I had written and this was relayed back to me by a second source. Despite years of supporting this tourism experience in much of my writing I was aghast to hear that they thought it poor of me to write something they didn’t agree with after ‘everything they had given me.’

But what exactly had they given me? A couple of famils that cost them very little as their partners all chipped in. What did they get in return? Seven figures worth of positive editorial and yet they feel entitled to complain when I don’t write to their internal brief. Again, I am not on their pay roll.

I am however able to pull all future editorial including positive, which I did. This is the prerogative of a journalist, the same perogative that PR professionals have with their own relationships with their providers.

It is human nature to want to help those that help you, to go the extra mile for those you like and it is also human nature to not want to bother with those who don’t say ‘thank you’ or make it more difficult for any of us to do our job.

If you want to know more about media relationships read this past blog.

 

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