Refreshingly candid top-tier reporter and her empowering word choice

This month at the PRSA International Conference I witnessed a refreshingly honest admission from a top-tier reporter who is obviously secure in herself as a successful journalist.

Hadley Malcolm, personal finance writer at USA Today, was asked whether she preferred to reach out to executives directly or go through a PR person.

The typical journalist response in these settings is talk about how annoying it is when PR people insert themselves as “middlemen” and force journalists to work through them and then insist on staying on the call and listening to the interview.

But Hadley said simply, “If the PR person is good and really helpful at wrangling schedules, then it’s better for me to contact the PR person who says, ‘Let me pin them down for you.’”

The key words there: If the PR person is good . . .

See how today’s time-starved journalist will want to work with you once you prove that you add value to their process? Don’t be distracted by all the posts online from journalists and bloggers awash in pitches who complain about too many PR people. Also, don’t be a stumbling block to reporters.

In another refreshingly honest statement, Hadley said, “The reality is we need you as much as you need us, in many cases.”

One way to position yourself as one of those “good PR people” is: promise that the fastest way to get anybody from your organization to comment is to go through you. Remind journalists that they can email you directly or call your cell, and then you can bypass secretaries and look at schedules and get the right spokesperson on the phone.

Another way is:  when your policy requires you to listen in on an interview, provide useful follow-up based on what you heard (when you didn’t interrupt and they forgot you were even there). Something that makes the journalist’s job easier and doesn’t promote your point of view. Do this once and they’ll welcome you sitting in on the call in the future.

This article was originally published on October 20, 2014

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