In the field of public relations today, media relations is a strategic function where the primary goal is to build relationships with mass media professionals that will be mutually beneficial, and allow both sides to achieve their goals.
Despite this definition, there is consistent animosity between the two sides of the media spectrum. As a dual major in journalism and public relations, I often find myself torn down the middle; but I still find my double-sided education incredibly beneficial, because regardless of what career path I embark upon, I will always have the necessary tools to foster a working relationship with the other.
So, instead of assuming that all of the journalists on your contact list are evil, here are some reasons to strengthen your relationship:
Public relations and journalism are two halves of a whole
Either would be essentially useless without the other. From a public relations perspective, journalists function as a gateway to your audiences, and it is critical to keep that gateway open and flowing with information. Simply just appreciate one another.
They know what they’re doing
A lot of the issues that I see arising between the two professions exist simply because neither understand the others’ goals and objectives. By taking the time to learn how journalists operate, I have come to appreciate the methods of collecting information (both good and bad) and objective reporting. While many public relations practitioners feel that journalists are constantly “crusading,” it would do them well to take a second look and understand.
They are bombarded with information constantly (just like us)
The only difference is that a lot of the information that journalists receive are from us. With that in mind, we have to work hard to make our pieces convenient and noticeable. It is unreasonable to expect journalists to sort through endless emails and stacks of paper just to recognize just another mediocre news release.
They are just doing their job
If a journalist asks a question about your organization that you don’t want to answer, it does not mean that they are cynical, negative or out to get you. It simply means that they are trying to get the full story. It’s that objective reporting concept that I mentioned earlier. We should all have respect for each others’ ethical obligations, instead of becoming frustrated by them.
It is our job to initiate the relationship
As lopsided as it may sound, we are the ones, as public relations professionals, that learned about “the strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and its publics.” That means that fostering regular contact with your journalist falls on your shoulders. With the ever-increasing fluidity of social media, there is hardly any excuse now for losing contact. Journalists rely on these platforms both to gain and disseminate information; take advantage of that.
A good relationship puts you in power
Media relations is often downgraded as a “tool” or “tactic” of public relations, but, in truth, it is its own strategic function. As digital technology advances and information spreads rapidly, public relations practitioners must take extra care to exert as much control over their messages as possible.
In closing, media relations is an essential aspect of public relations, often overlooked or undervalued. By that same token, practitioner’s attitudes toward journalists and vice versa, is mutually destructive. Each field has its merits and strengths, and a healthy understanding of both will surely prepare anyone for a career dealing in communication.
Teghan Simonton is a sophomore with a dual major in public relations and journalism. She serves as the publicity chair for Waynesburg PRSSA and as managing editor for the award-winning Yellow Jacket student newspaper. She is an active member of Red Brick Communications and the Society of Professional Journalists. In her free time, Teghan is a member of the cross country and track teams.