As a well-rounded firm comprised of people from all areas of the professional communications field, Bospar is uniquely positioned to offer insights about what it takes to succeed in PR. Many on our team are former journalists, with backgrounds that range from local and national TV news organizations and assignment desks to print newspapers and top-tier tech industry publications.
A number of our ex-journalist colleagues participated in a recent Bospar virtual roundtable for aspiring PR professionals, offering them a number of strategies to help establish and advance their careers. It resulted in the sharing of some of our ex-journalists’ most useful tips and best practices for media relations. Here are some key takeaways:
- Cut through the noise. Among the biggest challenges for PR professionals and their clients is the generally high noise level in the marketplace of ideas. Literally every company is on social media, blogs are everywhere, and content publishing shows no signs of slowing down. This makes telling your company’s story a lot more difficult, and many journalists simply don’t want to hear a single-focus PR pitch. What they often want to understand is how your pitch plays with bigger-picture trends around the world and across industries. When speaking with journalists, PR pros should be prepared to talk not only about the great things their client is doing but also how their client’s story fits into that bigger picture.
- Stay current and bring data. Communication with journalists becomes a lot more impactful when PR pros are on top of current events and bring relevant data to the conversation. Being aware of the recent moves in your client’s industry or sector, as well as knowing the key players and their recent performance, should be a baseline for talking with journalists about a given topic. And industry data – whether to support your client’s viewpoint or to provide general background – offers a compelling reason for reporters to listen and take your pitch seriously. By being well-informed and serving as a source of useful data to reporters, PR pros can establish fruitful long-term relationships with media personnel.
- Be educated about your client’s business. As obvious as it seems, PR pros need a real understanding of their client’s business. A baseline understanding of key markets, verticals and customers, as well as key financial metrics, should be table stakes when pitching. This should include a “deep dive” into trade publications that might not necessarily be mainstream. But the bottom line is that research and having command of one’s own facts can make the difference with reporters, particularly at times when they express interest and come back with a question – which is the wrong time to be unprepared!
- Recognize that the media are our “customers.” PR pros are also wise to consider that many reporters are overworked and under-resourced. Many are tasked with covering numerous different topics and vertical markets, as well as different sectors within those verticals. Being respectful of a journalist’s time is critical, and carefully preparing for media interactions is central to developing a solid partnership with journalists. Strive to be a good listener, understand their target audience, and deliver information quickly and efficiently.
Bospar’s ex-journalists know that despite pop culture portrayals, a successful career in public relations is far more than talking on the phone all day or “networking.” Good written and verbal communications skills – along with the desire and ability to make client news “shine” while gently and persistently working in partnership with the media – are the pathways to success. Just ask a retired reporter!