A Newsie’s Inside Look at the PR Profession

by Mija Maslar

November 15, 2017

Working in the broadcast newsroom trenches earlier this year alongside industry professionals, I quickly established an aptitude for pitching and writing news stories, monitoring media outlets, and championing social media, as well as deciding which stories are relevant, and which are not.

After graduating from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University in May, I took a hiatus from the news grind to focus my attention on building other industry-relevant skills. Thanks to my involvement in on-campus organizations, I’d gotten my feet wet as a strategic communicator, and I was eager to see how this other side operates.

When I landed this internship opportunity at Firmani + Associates in Seattle, I made my way up the West Coast, trading in the comfort of my home in the desert for a shot to flex my PR muscles in the Emerald City.

I’ve been told that there’s a notorious love-hate relationship between public relations professionals and reporters, but it’s no secret that the success of their jobs depends on symbiotic collaboration.  Just as there are no mountains without valleys, there’s often no news update without a story source, and no client coverage without a media contact. While they may seem like each other’s arch nemeses, their relationship is the bread and butter of the media circuit; with both professions having their perks – and often a lot in common. Here are several ways to overcome the misconceptions plaguing each profession, bridge the gap and reap the rewards of this partnership that, in the end, boasts a mutual benefit.


3 Tips for PR professionals working with Journalists

Always personalize that media pitch

  • It sure can be time-consuming; but letting a reporter know that you’ve done your research builds some serious industry clout for both you and your client. Don’t make them do all the heavy lifting – do some digging on their beat and what type of stories they cover. Ask yourself, have they done a story like yours? Does it even make sense to pitch that reporter? Landing critical client media coverage often hinges on pitching to the right contact. By holding up your end of the bargain, you can quickly earn your stripes and build a reliable network of media contacts.

There’s a delicate line between being persistent and being pushy

  • All PR professionals understand the importance of the good ol’ media follow-up – what journalist doesn’t appreciate a juicy story tip? However, even with the best intentions, reporters can find your efforts less helpful and more harmful if you don’t understand the art of the craft. Let the story marinate, don’t give them a follow-up call before they’ve had the time to make it past the first sentence of your pitch. Phone calls, emails and voicemails… Some journalists appreciate them – others don’t. Take the time to hone your media contact network to understand their preferences, and don’t let faulty follow-up etiquette overshadow a good client story.

Don’t take the inevitable “no” too personally.

  • In such a fast-paced industry, it’s great when journalists respond at all – after all, they have hundreds of emails to sift through daily. Don’t let being shut down shake your confidence. Nine times out of ten, rejections are related to timing restraints, subject matter, or the presence of other stories that take priority. And with daily deadlines approaching, journalists don’t have much time to sugar-coat their responses. Be proud of the coverage you do secure!


3 Tips for Journalists working with PR pros

Sometimes, a response can save both sides a lot of time.

  • PR pros know you’re busy sifting through those emails, but they have a job to do as well. Sometimes letting them know you’re not interested, or referring them to another reporter who might be, can earn you points on both sides. The ones who care will take note, relieving you of any irrelevant pitches clogging your inbox. Also – if you share what types of leads are important to you, you could be the first one they go to with their next relevant pitch.

Don’t assume PR professionals are blindly pitching you

  • PR professionals always (or always should) have a plan. They’re business-minded strategists, with a commitment to their clients that they wouldn’t dare compromise by firing aimlessly into the newsroom abyss. They have done their homework; they’ve put in hours of meticulous research to know exactly why they are pitching you and why their story is important to your audience. So, give these seasoned informants the same respect you give your colleagues, because they’re here for the same reason you are – to communicate captivating messages to the public.

Build relationships; they can keep you connected

  • PR agencies have a wide range of clients and the opportunities to do, learn and participate are much bigger than one meager story pitch. Think of PR pros as the gatekeepers to endless information and exclusive content regarding their clients. PR pros have unique on-the-ground opportunities – i.e. being a client’s brand ambassador at large corporate events and engaging with hundreds to thousands of people. With their fingers on the pulse of some of the most influential companies and executives, establishing a mutually beneficial relationship will be your greatest asset.
Mija Maslar
About Mija Maslar
Our wonderful intern Mija Maslar is finishing up her internship next month, with plans to go back to her broadcast roots. Mija made herself virtually indispensable from day one of her internship, quickly picking up industry best practices. Her clear affinity for strategic communications and storytelling has made her an incredible asset to the team - we are very lucky to have had her on board!
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A Newsie’s Inside Look at the PR Profession