PR Parables: Why face time with journalists is important

The beauty of this topic is that anyone and I mean anyone who has had ANY experience in corporate communications will have an unforgettable moment to recount, in this eternal space of media meets communications. Or better still, for communications pros trying to connect with media. From what I have seen, heard and experienced in my PR career, it is perhaps safe to say that a little preparation goes a long way. So yes, if you do some ground work before you rush to grab the phone and try to make a garbled conversation with a journalist, a bit of pre work will improve the reputation of " these PR people" . We have a long way to go, both media and the PR community. 

Respect and response from the media (even if it is no) and preparedness and professionalism from the communication folks, could well become a game changer. And maybe the world of media and corporate communications community, live happily ever after. Wishful thinking eh? 

Piyali Dasgupta, associate director PR & Media Relations, JLL India, has hit many heads with one hammer, I am sure a lot of your heads are nodding in agreement. She makes a very valid point and has revived the old practice of meeting journalists .  

Says Piyali, “ Making personal face time is important to ensure we get proper and good response from media. Journalists and PR professionals are smart and intelligent people, who are working towards making good stories. However, while most media persons are very approachable and responsive, some connections can be challenging with journalists refusing to either response to emails or calls or text messages. I blame this on the new culture of doing business over electronic devices. Today more calls are spams than actual business calls. Thus if your number is not registered with the journalist, the chances of you receiving a responses reduces by that much. I recommend we go back to the principle of doing media rounds where a face could be put to names. This will create more recall for PR professionals helping one create better recall for you as a person and the company you represent.There is no substitute to human connection .”

Moushumi’s take: My take on the subject is in complete agreement with Piyali. I belong to the era when every press release required you to take a trip down fleet street and I therefore hear what Piyali says. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, take out the time and build your own rapport and relationship with the press. It did and it will go a long way. Go meet them instead of texting, calling , emailing and ‘whatsapping’ them. 

Pitching in non -metro cities

Falguni Patel, senior communications consultant with the Ahmedabad based Simulations Public Affairs Management says, “If the narrative is interesting, novel and impactful, there are higher chances of a journalist responding to the story pitch aka sales pitch. A PR professional however in a non-metro city walks on a tight rope. On one hand, client needs to be convinced of the brand narrative that goes out in media and on the other hand, journalist needs to be intrigued about the newer trends, soft stories in different sectors. More often than not, we are met with responses such as 'We don't find it interesting' whereas the same topic is creating waves at global level. Call it journalist and media house ignorance or indifference, maybe. Top it up with pitches to national newspaper and magazines where interest in stories coming from non-metro cities is close to zilch. “

Adds Patel, “A PR person definitely gets stuck in a catch 22 situation trying to decipher the primary question - where does your news come from ? Only metros or beyond ? " 

Moushumi’s take: I believe that Falguni makes a very good point and I can't agree more with her on the catch 22 situation. However, maybe this challenge can be turned on its head and I would link it with the point made by Piyali, about taking the effort to meet and brief the editors who may have the appetite for what you are serving.   And please let's be extra careful of not calling a story idea as a sales pitch. In today's day and age, the communications brigade will have  to get over their own mind set.

Megha Sharma, founder & CEO, Adrift Communications & Influencer Marketing says, “Journalists need to understand that a PR person isn’t a postman or a call center executive out to deliver "information" to them. Crafting right content for media pitches is only possible and effective when both parties spend time on what one needs and the other should provide. Our biggest challenge is not getting any response to emails and calls or even a request for a meeting to discuss story ideas. “

Sharma also expresses her frustration saying that, “The other big challenge is response by media persons depending on the brand your are handling. If you are handling a big brand, you get more responses but if you are handling a small brand, getting a response is a near impossible task.”

Moushumi’s take: Yes, dear and respected colleagues from media, on behalf of the PR community, I have one request, can you please take out one minute maximum of your time to just drop a two letter response “No”,  when you don't want to pursue a story we have shared with you. Trust me, we won't follow up with you. No, we won't. And yes we will keep our word on this. Deal?

Moushumi Dutt is a senior corporate communications consultant
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