Digital is fast overtaking the PR industry, but media relations is still at the core of quite a lot of what we do every day. So we cornered the ex-journalists in the office to find out what they think about what’s wrong with PR and the way we do it. These simple tips on communicating with journalists from journalists will help refresh your media relations skills:
1. Understand our stress
If you haven’t worked as a journalist, fret not, because according to Thailand Managing Director Stuart Kelly, a former Bloomberg journalist, it can be as simple as putting yourself in their shoes. Journalists are under a huge amount of stress. Think deadlines and phone calls from almost every PR agent in the country every day. It’s best to digest news for them, adjusting your releases to be reader- and journalist-friendly: simplify your language, use figures or infographics and provide explanations where special terms appear.
2. Do your homework
A little homework will make your life easier. ‘Know your journalist’ is the rule. Before you call, know who they are and what they write about. Don’t take chances by sending them a release that’s not related to their beat. We place high emphasis on doing homework before calling journalists to make sure you’re not wasting their time…and yours.
3. Know how to sell your news
It’s fair to say that journalists have a broadly jaundiced view of PR, especially our news writing skills. So when they come across someone who can write news like they can, they’re really impressed. It’s worth focusing on crafting a well-honed press release that actually gives them what they want – a story in 100 words or less. They don’t have time to look for an elusive news angle that’s buried in the middle of a 1,000-word release. Prepare your pitch before you pick up the phone; you have about 30 seconds to convince them. In fact, if the first four paragraphs of your release sound a lot like your phone pitch to them then you know you’ve nailed the release.
Relationships are always important when it comes to PR agencies; after all we are in the business of public relations. Establishing relationships with media is hard; maintaining them is harder. With Thai media specifically, there is one rule that you should not cross – respect. Thai society emphasizes seniority. We show respect by referring to them in a polite tone, usually addressing them as “Pi” (elder sister or brother) or “Khun” (Mr. and Ms.). But appropriate joking can also be useful at times to break the ice.
Whether our news is published or not we will be involved with journalists in one way or another. With the growing digital disruption in our industry, PR is making full use of social media to give access to readers, making the job of the PR professional a lot easier when it comes to pushing out news. Regardless of the inroads made by digital PR, meaningful and long-lasting relationships with journalists will always be important, especially in Thailand. It’s necessary to keep these tips in mind when associating with journalists. Be nice, be patient, because they are humans too.
Nichakorn Prateepsawangwong is Associate at Weber Shandwick Thailand