Relationships With Journalists Aren’t A PR Advantage

Many believe the strength of a PR company is measured by their many “strong relationships with journalists.” Not are these relationships not genuine to begin with, even the ones that are real don’t guarantee much of anything to their clients. In fact, they might work against them.

Relationships With Journalists Might Not Be Real

Firstly, the relationships with journalists, or at least those they claim to have, might not even be real in the first place.

Having written for a lot of nationally respected publications, a popular podcast, and having a weekly iHeart Radio/WHO Radio on-air show, I receive many idea pitches. My first run-in with the “relationship myth” was after an interview with a guest. At the end, they told me how “lucky” they were there PR company had a relationship with me — I had no idea who they were referring to.

Only after looking through previous emails did I recall the original pitch that led me to this contact. The PR person certainly had emailed me before, but I wasn’t familiar with them or their company. Yet, they claimed they had a relationship with me.

The “relationships” many PR companies claim to have are nothing more than me being in their database. A database you can buy right now on PR Leads, Muck Rack, Agility or Cision.

Relationships With Journalists Don’t Help Your Pitch

Additionally, I don’t believe relationships with journalists actually increase your chances of getting your work published or getting a reporter to pay attention to you and I’m not alone. Just think about how wrong the very idea is.

Most journalists are hell-bent, especially in this day and age, on getting it right. This means they have focused on one thing, great stories, and facts. Period. If you send them a great idea and back it up, they don’t care who you are, they care that you have an original story or fresh angle. In fact, close relationships with journalists may actually make it tougher on the person pitching the idea.

In an interview on WHO Radio, Susan Patterson Plank of the Iowa Newspaper Association told me “…I think good journalists bend over backward [to not show bias] and sometimes can be frustrating to the people inside their circle.” But she also agreed those relationships, even good ones, might even work against their friends PR goals.

“Many times, the closer you are to a journalist, the more scrutiny you may be under. Because the journalist doesn’t want to show favoritism or even have it appear that they are showing favoritism” Patterson Plank explained. In other words, good journalists have integrity. They aren’t going to run your article just because they like you — they may actually choose not to run a great story out of fear of showing bias to their circle.

Susan Patterson Plank of the Iowa Newspaper Association speaks with Justin Brady

Sure, bad journalists may be easily influenced by close relationships or favors, but keep in mind they don’t carry credibility anyway, and therefore your PR goals won’t benefit from their coverage. This doesn’t mean you should avoid developing relationships with journalists, however.

“Build relationships with reporters, so that when they have a question about your industry or your area of knowledge, they know that you’re someone that can add expertise to an experience.” Patterson Plank explained.

Relationships with journalists are a good thing when they need a resource and have a trusted bond with you, but they carry little to no impact when pitching story ideas. When I’m asked how much does PR cost the biggest driver is time spent developing original stories and fresh ideas. Because great content really is king.


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