In recognition of World Press Freedom Day on May 3, we want to recognize the journalists who work hard each and every day to keep the public informed, tell all sides of a story, give a voice to the marginalized and hold those in power accountable.
For PR pros, who rely on and work closely with journalists on a continual basis, it’s is a good reminder of just how hard journalists work to bring attention to their stories. It’s also a good time to reflect on the ways in which PR pros can do their part to help journalists and make it easier for them to do their jobs.
Last year, my colleague wrote an excellent post with tips for how the public can support journalists – from paying for subscriptions or donating to organizations that work to support a free press, to simply publicly recognizing or sharing great reporting when you come across it.
In addition to the above actions, PR pros can help journalists in a more direct way when reaching out to and working with them. While these actions may not make a huge impact on press freedom itself, they can go a long way in helping journalists overcome many of the day-to-day obstacles (and frustrations) of their jobs – while showing appreciation and respect for the work they do.
- Make sure your pitch is worth the read. Most journalists find that very few of the pitches they receive actually make sense for their audience or area of focus. Before reaching out, make sure the journalists on your contact list are right for the story you’re pitching. Otherwise, you’re wasting both parties’ time.
- Be available and responsive. Most journalists are working multiple beats and trying to file multiple stories per week amid tight deadlines. They don’t have time to chase PR pros down to get necessary details. Always include contact information when sending out a pitch or a press release and be ready and available to answer any follow up questions the reporter may have.
- Give them sufficient lead time. Journalists have to move at a rapid pace, so whenever possible, they like to plan their stories in advance. The more time you can give them to cover your story, the more likely they are to fit it into their editorial calendar. Consider giving them a calendar of upcoming stories you plan to pitch, so they can know what’s coming.
- Be able to deliver what you promise. If you offer an interview with a subject matter expert, make sure that person is actually available and up for the task. (Pro tip: Including a compelling quote from a subject matter expert in your pitch or press releases can be a time saver for both parties, as the journalist can simply grab it for their story.)
- Practice patience. Reporters barely have time to read every pitch they receive – most get up to 100 or more each week – let alone respond to every single one. If you’ve followed up with them and still haven’t heard back, chances are they either didn’t find the pitch relevant or are too busy to get back to you. Either way, it’s probably time to move on, free up that reporter’s inbox and move to the next journalist who may be more responsive.
- Relinquish control. Unless they’ve reported something inaccurate or untruthful, how a journalist chooses to report a story you’ve pitched is not the PR person’s call to make. (Journalists already have editors for that.)