First a fact: the debate over the nature of the perfect relationship between hacks and flacks is as old as both professions—and it will never really end.
On that note, we last heard from Ed Zitron of EZ-PR in this review of a Forbes‘ story on why journalists hate PR (his point, not the writer’s). Last week he published a piece in Inc. magazine elaborating on the topic under the headline “The Best PR-Reporter Relationships Are Selfless“. Let’s review his variations on this theme:
The best PR person serves as a “utility” for journalists rather than a nag who insists that a publication cover his or her client. Placing your client within a story, rather than forcing a story focused on your client, is the more valuable goal in the long run.
Establishing an identity is as important as earning coverage: If you offer your services as an expert to journalists who cover your beat, then they’ll be far more likely to value your relationship than if you somehow convince them to write a story on your client and then disappear. We doubt that your boss will fail to appreciate the importance of a mention or a quote, but if he/she does then something is seriously wrong.
Introduce journalists to other contacts and they’ll value you more: Variation on the first point: don’t insist that everything is always about your clients. If you know someone else who might help a reporter out a la Peter Shankman, then for God’s sake do it. If you’re really good at your job then you can refer a journalist whose work you value to another contact more appropriate for the story they’re working on at that moment.
Always answer the journo’s questions if you can: We’re not really the type to post open-ended questions on Twitter, but some writers do, and it sure would be great if you could answer them with useful information (key point). If you have something real to give then they will appreciate it, so be like, “hey, I don’t have any relevant clients but have you heard about this story?”. It works.
Help a bro out, too: If you have a colleague who’s doing something really cool, then throw in a hand to help publicize it. Zitron mentions a friend who creates incredibly concentrated coffee as a hobby and recalls sending samples of said coffee to reporters because he liked the project despite the fact that said friend was not paying him for PR services.
We like these points, we feel they’re worth repeating, and we’d like to think they’re basic but that doesn’t appear to be the case.
We’re just very, very glad we don’t get hard-sell cold calls all day.