Recent Insider Louisville guest blogger Jenni Laidman lamented rather bitterly over the “dark side of PR,” with reporters leaving the newsroom for PR jobs.
But Jenni (and Dave Parro) have confused public relations with media relations, a job any good reporter has the expertise and credentials to do honorably and very well.
News people cannot be everywhere. They welcome legitimate news stories, factual information, credible leads and the understanding of their short turnaround time. And who better to accomplish that than former news reporters and producers?
PR deals with full scale marketing campaigns that can include web site design, fancy brochures, media buys and advertising, as well as the ever endearing “No comment.”
Media relations deals with presenting to the news rooms various stories they can cover: It is called “earned media.”
Media relations professionals make sure a reporter has all sides of a story. Even if certain reporters have a tendency to formulate a story before they have gotten all the facts, and then write copy to fit what they want to say, not what really happened.
Few PR people know how to present a story to a news room. PR people send out long, wordy press releases that don’t say anything. The releases rarely are even read by hurried assignment editors juggling breaking news and dispatching news crews to numerous locations, all while monitoring police and fire calls.
Media relations people know to put pertinent information first and keep it short. They know not to send attachments or graphics in an email. Media relations people know what background materials a reporter wants and send it in formats that are helpful.
Media relations means understanding news gathering is flexible, as well as limited.
Media relations specialists take into account the day, the time and the location for a story, as well as having news-friendly materials such as a one-sided piece of paper with large margins, copy in 12 point Arial font, double spaced, with the correct spellings of peoples’ names and titles. Interviews where the sound is not disrupting and electric outlets reachable. Viable live shots, quick sound bites and interviews, all while knowing the legal parameters of journalism ethics.
Earned news coverage can be as minimal as an announcement of an organization’s meeting or as complex as dedicating a new wing at a homeless shelter. A media relations specialist knows what is news and when to tell a client to take out an ad.
Too many PR people schedule good events at inconvenient times or at far-flung locations – and then they gripe they can never get any news coverage.
Media relations people know news staffing is minimal on weekends, and during Derby Week if you have not been murdered with your body hanging from the Twin Spires, you will probably not get any news coverage – and breaking news takes precedence over everything because that is what the public turns to a newscast for.
News organizations are not being paid by PR people and their clients, but by companies that depend on advertising and rating numbers to bring in the dollars that pay for news staff.
News coverage is a demanding, serious business, and a good media relations person respects what news organizations are now forced to compete with.
If we can help them protect the First Amendment, then I am all for former reporters and producers going over to the dark side.
About Honi Marleen Goldman. Honi Goldman is a media relations executive, owner of HMG Media Relations and a longtime Kentucky activist.