Looking back on 2021: why relationships with journalists are more important than ever
George Pickford, PR and Marketing Executive:
- Improve, adapt, overcome
- Keeping the PR heart beating
- Lessons learnt
“Public relations is a mix of journalism, psychology, and lawyering – it’s an ever-changing and always interesting landscape.” – Ronn Torossian
With public relations skills needed for so many areas of business, it is no surprise that a global standstill across a multitude of sectors would impact the industry.
The last 18 months have been the toughest many have witnessed in their lifetime. With the media landscape hugely impacted, it was crucial for public relations agency teams to adjust their techniques and tactics in order to effectively achieve the same high-quality media coverage as pre-pandemic levels. In the words of Bear Grylls, we had to ‘improvise, adapt, overcome’.
The sudden change to remote working came with a variety of challenges, but none perhaps more significant than being able to have regular telephone calls with a journalist or news desk – our preferred method at Conscious Communications to nurture and maintain constant and open dialogue. Suddenly, landlines were deactivated as a result of home-working and the concept of regular office hours did not apply. Our favoured contact numbers were made redundant, so adapting to journalists’ new home working routines, developing effective eye-catching emails, tactical social media usage and regular check-ins with Editors to gauge daily staffing changes proved vital in our approach.
Time and again, strong relationships with journalists have proven to be the lifeline that keeps the heart beating within our media relations activity – this especially rang true when we could rely on our strong rapports with journalists to ensure a steady stream of coverage for our clients over the past year and a half.
Keeping the media up-to-date with our clients’ news needed a unique approach during the pandemic. How can you be sure that you cut through the now increased noise of thousands of other emails journalists receive? Here are a few things that I learnt over the last 18 months to hone my approach to media relations:
- There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Each journalist working at home has their own routine and preferred times of publishing that may differ to those when in the office.
- Mutual respect has a crucial role to play – consideration of the outlet and journalists’ personal situation (for example furlough) has to be taken into account.
- Journalists may not like to be contacted through their personal mobile, even if you have correctly sourced the number.
- Regular and reliable communication is more crucial than ever – show the journalist that despite working from home, you are readily available at any given time to provide accurate information.
2021 has forced daily ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking and I believe as a team it has made us stronger and more creative. Keeping an open dialogue with our media contacts, despite technological barriers, helped to solidify our journalist relationships and ensure that we could continue to deliver for our clients to the highest degree. Joining the team in March 2020 I started my PR journey just at the beginning of the pandemic; meaning that working through a pandemic is all I have known (so far!). However, I believe that learning these skills has helped to strengthen my knowledge and understanding of the industry and I look forward to drawing upon these valuable lessons as I advance further into my career.