As a PR consultant, sometimes we get caught between what the journalist wants and what the client wants. Unfortunately, their two needs aren’t always the same. Enter the middle woman/ man.
Your role is essentially to manage the process of lifting the media presence of your clients whilst also providing your network of journalists with relevant news and content. If you’re doing one and not the other, you’re not doing it right.
Personally, I have found that creating enduring relationships with media is a fundamental component of being a good PR consultant and 63 per cent of PR professionals agree, stating that they believe it is a necessary skill to have for the success of their organisation moving forward*.
Below are 4 principles that I have found to be helpful when you find yourself caught in a challenging situation between your client and a journalist. For those working in the media and client side, these principles may also help to illustrate the work that goes on behind the scenes if you are dealing with a quality PR professional.
- Do your homework
If a client has given you a brief to pitch a topic that you haven’t had much experience with, it is highly beneficial to do your homework on which journalists are covering that particular topic, rather than pitching on mass and hoping for the best. Although it may be more time consuming, if you can get a good idea of whether the journalist you are pitching to specialises in a particular area or has been working a particular angle on that topic, you can then workshop your pitch to suit their need.
I have also found it beneficial to reach out to new journalists for a coffee catch up to discuss what they are currently looking for in terms of content and news angles which also gives you a chance to build more of a rapport.
- Get to the point
If a client has provided you with collateral that is long and complex, as PR consultants, we need to absorb this information and pull out the most newsworthy and compelling parts to turn into a pitch that quickly gets to the point. It is crucial to present a strong angle to the journalist as they receive hundreds of pitches and media releases from PR professionals per day. An ideal pitch would have 3 to 4 digestible sentences with a subject line which represents the crux of your story.
- Educate the client on how the media works
If a client is pressing you to pitch something you know won’t get traction or that could put pressure on your relationships with media, have the confidence to push back and offer a better solution. This is probably one of the most difficult aspects of the job and something that you will need to discuss with your account team to make sure that everyone is aligned to provide a more suitable option that works for the client and correlates with your values.
It’s also important to educate clients on the difference between hard and soft news as something that may seem really significant to your client, doesn’t necessarily translate into a strong news angle for journalists. In cases like this, it can be more beneficial to advise clients to create opinion pieces or blogs which can have as much impact as a news story.
- Practice patience
Being the middle woman can sometimes be a frustrating position to be in as finding middle ground between two parties can be challenging. It usually involves long email threads going back and forth between both the journalist and client.
With journalists it is important to remember that if what you’re pitching isn’t time sensitive, they may have more pressing news to deal with before they can get back to you. The same applies to communication with clients- in some cases you may be dealing with executives high up the food chain who are also dealing with other aspects of their business.
In these circumstances, patience is your best friend. Keep each side updated on your progress, and try not to get discouraged if you need to go back to the drawing board with a pitch or focus your efforts in a new direction if the timing or angle doesn’t work out with a particular journalist.
Although the middle woman/ man can sometimes have negative connotations, in PR they can actually be a valuable asset to both clients and journalists by helping to achieve the best possible outcome for both parties.
Once you have mastered the art of being stuck in the middle, the rewards of kicking goals for clients and getting positive feedback from journalists makes all the juggling completely worth it.
*2018 Holmes Global Communications Report