Media Moves

PR and the business reporter: After the pitch

September 26, 2014

Posted by Bill C. Smith

Way back in October 2013, I elaborated upon several of the dos and don’ts of PR and reporter relationships. This past week I solicited some new commentary, and one theme that emerged was that Public relations folks often nail the initial pitch, but then fumble the follow-up.

The Too Friendly

Offering to take a reporter to coffee is fine, and if you know them well enough, you may wish to offer a beer.   In regard to gifts, some media outlets have specific policies outlining what reporters are and are not able to accept from sources and vendors. Even without guidelines set in stone, gifts can be viewed as unwelcome. A broadcast business reporter relayed,

“When PR people send gifts or care packages, especially if I’m writing a piece about one of their clients. It just puts me in a difficult position — I get rid of the gift and then I like that person less for trying to bribe me.”

The Stalker

PR pros are allowed to follow-up on pitches that have garnered interested from the reporter. But there are boundaries.

Tamika Cody, managing editor at Accounting Today, doesn’t like when she receives pitches unrelated to her beat. But worse…

“…following up with several phone calls on a story pitch that has nothing to do with my beat and then have the nerve to call from a blocked number because they (the PR pro) realized I am not answering their calls…only for me to tell them this has nothing to do with my beat.”

The multimedia business reporter who elaborated upon the awkwardness of gifts also stated that one of her biggest pet peeves was when PR pros didn’t respect boundaries…

“Calling my cell phone unless it’s urgent (i.e. we have a call scheduled and I’m not

picking up). This doesn’t include a time-sensitive pitch. Use email or work phone for that.”

The Entourage

Generally, reporters only want to chat/meet with the source. They don’t want the internal marketing person, the butler, the assistant vice secretary, and they usually don’t even care for the PR professional (unless you’ve upped your reporter relationship game reading Talking Biz News posts on the topic).

Kelsey Butler, a financial journalist, offers that…

“I HATE the “entourage effect.” Meetings should be kept to just the necessary participants. If it’s a first meeting between a client and a journalist, of course it’s great to have the PR person introducing them sitting in the room. But is it necessary to have the source’s business associate who just happens to be in town, the company’s compliance officer and two other seemingly random employees there? No. Any good journalist will abide by boundaries set before the interview–there’s no need to have four other people in a meeting listening in to jump in only to say “Don’t print any of that super confidential stuff our client said was off the record anyway.” We know what off the record means and we’ll respect it, thank you.”

Even on calls the entourage effect can get awkward, as Cody states…

“I hate it when PR folks are on the call and then monopolize the conversation. PLEASE     BE SILENT! I am not talking to you I am talking to the CEO (or source)”

But it’s not all bad!

As Cody shares…

“Other than that…I like PR people. They are my best friends because the good ones knows exactly what I want and how I can get it for my story.”

Don’t be an overzealous gift-giver, invasive, or form client-source entourages. Strive to be one of the good ones, and remember that cultivating reporter relationships takes more than just a good pitch.

Bill C. Smith (@BillCSmith87) is a senior account executive at Makovsky Integrated Communications in New York.

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