Blacklist journos who are repeat offenders with clients advise PR Guru experts

Twice a month our expert panel will pick and choose question to answer on varied topics from our readers. Dive in to read about what you need to win over the journalist.

Our panel includes...
Kunal Kishore Sinha, founder director, Value 360 Communications Pvt. Ltd.
Gayatri Rath, director, corporate communications and citizenship, Microsoft India
Deepa Thomas, general manager, group communications, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd
Paroma Roy Chowdhury, vice president, public affairs, SoftBank
Sujit Patil, vice president and head of corporate communications, Godrej Industries Limited and Associate companies
Shravani Dang, vice president & global group head of corporate communications, Avantha Group
Aniruddha Atul Bhagwat, co-founder & director, Ideosphere Consulting Private Limited.

You often come across journalists that attend one-on-one media interactions but very seldom do stories. It happens once, but if it happens for the second or third time the client is not going to be happy. How do PR professionals subtly communicate the sensitivities in getting the spokesperson to dedicate time for the interactions without much outcome? Sometimes a client could even blacklist or choose to disengage with such reporters if they have a history of doing so. Please advise.
Kevin Braganza, Ketchum Sampark

Expert Advice...

Paroma Roy Chowdhury, vice president-public affairs, SoftBank

“In such a situation, the ball has to be in the PR professional’s court. If the story is compelling enough, it will be done. Very often the PR person or agency thinks that meeting is the job. It isn’t, it’s only 25% of the job.

From the above it follows that you need to look at yourself. Is the content on offer good enough? If not, fix it.

Lastly, any story is also about the relationship between the PR pro and the journalist. If the relationship is good enough, you should be able to say I will give you something good, I will help you write the story. Even at this level I create stories with the journalist. You need to build the relationship to call on when the story is not that good and this is not a short term fix.

If after doing all of the above, the situation is not solved, blacklist the journalist. Have the power to blacklist a journalist. While you must add value and be credible, there is no need to accept any nonsense from a journalist. There shouldn’t be this caste system between PR and journalism.”

Kunal Kishore Sinha, founder director, Value 360 Communications

“The role of PR does not only entail bridging the gap between the media and the client. One practice I always insist on being followed by PR practitioners is reading up thoroughly on the journalist’s beat and his or her work. Look for common points or pegs of interest that have resonance to the journalist’s work. This will help you gauge as well as pitch story ideas that the journalist can relate to and explore further.

It may not always be possible to control how a journalist will carry forward media interactions with a client. However, if a certain journalist can be identified as repeatedly not delivering stories in spite of regular interactions with the client, may be it is time to see if the journalist in question is relevant to the client’s context. While it is important to build positive and productive relationships with journalists, ensure that you are speaking to the ones who can make a difference. Clearly convey to the journalist that you can connect him to the client’s resources that can help him/her build information around a topical subject which comes under your client’s domain expertise.

Your client interaction should therefore enable a journalist to form a reaction to a story or build a new premise for one that he/she wishes to pursue further. The client in question should be briefed in advance to base his conversation around the talk points that complement such a premise succinctly. This will lead to journalists seeking the client’s word the next time organically without waiting for multiple pitches to arrive in his/her inbox.”

In the age of real time news and every journalist wanting breaking story or exclusive how does one manage media relations?
Anup Sharma, PR consultant

Expert Advice...

Kunal Kishore Sinha, founder director, Value 360 Communications

“From my years of experience in PR, I have realized that it is often a tricky situation to give equal importance to all the media representatives of different publications when it comes to an exclusive story. There is always the likelihood of the rest feeling cold-shouldered if only one publication is chosen over others to roll out an exclusive. Hence, there needs to be ample justification attributed to such stories.

 Involve your client in analyzing why a certain story needs to be pitched to only one publication and do it only if the client insists on it or if it meets your publishing criteria. Media intelligence comes in to play here as a PR practitioner must be able to review what a journalist specializes in and why he/she is more likely to give weightage to one’s story.

Ideally, one must adopt a neutral approach and pitch stories to the media in general instead of playing favorites and not give in to the pressure of delivering breaking news. While every story must have a different aspect to it, the term ‘exclusive’ is a loosely used term today. One must use it with due discretion and explain the importance of every kind of media, big or small in building media reputation to one’s client. Balance your exclusives in order to maintain honest relations with journalists as each publication is an important stakeholder to achieve adequate brand salience.”

‪How should one handle the journalists who at times become so rude over the call and put the phone down before you finish off?
Neha Bahl, ‪ Qube Communication

Expert Advice...

Aniruddha Atul Bhagwat, founder-director, Ideosphere Consulting Private Limited

“The onus of grabbing and holding the attention of any influencers, whether media or otherwise, is on us. Journalists must be getting many calls all day, so their frustration is understandable, and maybe, we would have done the same in their position. As the scope of communications changes, we may need to speak to many different influencers, including media, on behalf of the brands we handle. Here, the approach in which we open communication is the most important.

First of all, if we call any journalist without sending an email giving background information, data to support, and a comprehensive understanding of the story, we should be hung up on. If we take the attitude of working with journalist rather just merely getting a story out, we will see the journalist responding positively and ready to have a discussion on the topic and/or client. This would enable a good start to building a working relationship with the journalist as well as resulting in an impactful media impression.

Secondly, we need to be prepared to speak to the journalist, be abreast of the stories on the sector we are pitching appeared that day, and understand the type of perspective on the sector the journalist has taken in the past. Understanding the sector, the journalists’ views towards the sector (analyzed through their past stories), and the current trends/stories will help us in holding a deeper conversation with the media. Our preparation will result in how long we can hold the attention and interest of the journalist. We should avoid abrupt calls to the media and ensure we follow a process of preparation and information sharing before the first call. “

Shravani Dang, vice president and global group head of corporate communications, Avantha Group

“First of all, as a professional, you cannot lose your cool ever, especially to people outside the organisation. In the image business, you can't be the one giving out a poor image. Journalists will try to provoke and push you to answer on the defensive. Don't fall for that. Always be polite, firm and succinct. And as for them being rude and ill tempered - don't react, be calm and don't take it personally. Better him than you and you come off as a better person. That's a plus. "

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