The changing face of the PR - Journalist relationship and how the internet is enabling it

The media landscape is witnessing a lot of changes. There is a shift happening from print to digital media and the World Wide Web has given a platform for anyone and everyone to voice their opinions. This change has also permeated to the PR journalist relationship.

Every journalist wants the best spokespersons for their stories (hence the need for PR folks) and every PR person wants to be in the best stories.

This channel of give and take between PR pros and journalists was restricted to emails and phone calls in the past. However, the internet is playing a big role in bringing about a revolution in the way they interact, share ideas, and collaborate.

Here’s how:

1) Twitter has emerged as a big platform for the exchange of pitches and sourcing subject matter experts

Almost all journalists across leading publications (globally!) are present on Twitter and they are actively using it to source quotes for their stories. The most popular hashtag used by journalists is #journorequest. The PR fraternity is also using Twitter to publicise new pitches and reports through the use of the hashtag #prrequest.

Try it, you will find new opportunities across a gamut of topics (be it technology, finance etc.) on a daily basis.

2) Online communities are bringing together PR professionals and journalists

One of the biggest and most popular is HARO or Help a reporter out (now part of Vocus). Founded as a Facebook group in 2008 by Peter Shankman, this group has quickly grown in popularity and has many journalists from the biggest of publications as members. All a PR person needs to do is register on their website as a source and they will start receiving media opportunities posted by journalists.

Another one is Media Diplomat. The same process works here as well.

3) Personal Websites

Another interesting thing (used extensively by international media especially freelancers) is the use of personal websites. They use this platform to showcase their work to date, their focus areas as well as publicise upcoming commissions.

So the question is, how can PR folks use these?:

Do go and register yourself as a source on all these online communities. You will get a daily supply of mailers with existing story requirements. Not only will this make the process of scouting for stories easier, but also it will give you a good idea of what topics journalists specialise in since many use these on a regular basis. This will surely help you in more targeted pitching in the future as well.

Once you get a fair idea of what journalists write about, definitely look them up on Google. If they have a personal website, do scan it to see what publications they write about, upcoming stories etc (again this helps a lot in the case of freelance journalists since one journalist can give you access to many publications). More often than not, they will also have a Twitter handle which they might be using to seek sources for upcoming stories.

Do a daily Twitter search of the hashtags #prrequest and #journorequest to ensure you don’t miss out on any opportunities. The best part about Twitter is that it will give you access to media opportunities from across the globe.

In addition to the above, Twitter is also a great hunting ground for finding out new journalists relevant for you. Say, for example, your client is in the technology sector covering Big Data. A simple Twitter search of ‘journalist+ technology’ or ‘journalist + Bigdata’ will throw up many journalist names who you can pitch to.

If your client has come up with a new study/ thought leadership paper, use Twitter to create buzz and source interviews using the hashtag #prrequest.

One of the biggest advantages of this change is that it is making the journalist- PR relationship more real- time. Platforms like Twitter are making the process of sourcing comments and media opportunities very fast with short turnaround times.

This is not a one sided relationship and one needs the other to grow. So such portals go a long way in strengthening their bond and create an ecosystem which promotes collaboration and unity.  

Hence, it works well for both PR pros and journalists to utilize these platforms/ methods to seek out the best possible opportunities.

A former communications consultant with 20:20 MSL, A.Shruti (@thisisshruti) has worked on PR for technology and research firms such as Symantec and IDC. In addition to that, she has also done international communications for a niche mobile VAS player.

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