On honesty and working with the news media

By Posted in - Media Relations on August 31st, 2012 0 Comments

Public relations professionals often get a bad rap. Unfortunately the stereotype of a PR “flack” bending the truth (or just flat out lying) to the news media is perpetuated by those in the industry who actually practice unethically. Or, a few bad apples can spoil the bunch.

So I wanted to highlight a situation I”ve experienced this week where I”ve been able to put my “honesty is the best policy” to the test, and hopefully show all PR professionals aren”t smarmy and manipulative.

We”re working with a client right now that has an incredibly positive, fascinating story to share at the national level. It”s attracted the attention of several national media outlets because of its relevance and unique angle.

Right up front in every single one of my communications with the journalists I reached to about the story, I”ve been forthcoming with the other conversations taking place. I”ve told them what stories are already in the works, when they”re scheduled to appear and when those talks have taken place.

I”m not doing that to pit these news organizations against each other. I”m doing it because I believe knowledge is power. If you know what you”re up against, online casino you can (hopefully) make informed decisions about the best course of action.

In this instance, it might mean that one of the news outlets decides not to do the story because another organization has already committed to it. As a publicist, that”s hard for me to swallow because I want EVERYONE to know about this epic thing our client is doing.

But I respect journalists and the fourth estate too much to not tell them the truth. I present what I believe are valuable news story ideas, but ultimately it”s up to the editors to decide how they want to proceed. It”s my job to do my research beforehand, identify the news outlets and audiences I think would resonate best with this information, and propose it on its merit.

What would”ve happened if I didn”t share the information I knew with the journalists? Potentially the stories would”ve run simultaneously, which may not mean much to the reader, but this is a competitive bunch and news coverage is a business, just like any other. Most competing news organizations don”t like to share information – they want to be out in front. Can”t say that I blame them.

So if I didn”t keep everyone informed and the stories ran anyway, I would”ve potentially ruined a chance at a long-term trusted professional relationship with the news outlets. Worse, I would”ve proven the “smarmy, manipulative” PR stereotype right.

Public relations is often referred to as “earned media,” meaning you don”t buy an advertisement to communicate your point. You have to earn it. You have to position a story idea for what it is, and an editor will ultimately be the one to decide if your idea is newsworthy or not.

I played it straight. And I”m happy to report that as of right now, it looks like all of the hard work will pay off with multiple national news outlets covering the story a few different ways in the coming weeks.

In our business, honesty is always the best policy.

 

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