If you are engrossed in the media world, you know that the PR-Journalist relationship is a sacred one. We asked our friend and colleague, Danya Henninger, Philadelphia Food/Drink Editor at Zagat, for advice in navigating this tricky partnership by unveiling the do’s and don’ts from a journalist’s perspective.
Q: What is your preferred method of contact from PR pros?
A: Email. I know some tech reporters (Farhad Manjoo, NYT) who like Twitter DMs, because it strips away the pleasantries and makes people get right to the point, but I primarily use email to organize everything. DO. NOT. CALL me with an initial pitch unless it's an exclusive, or scoop. However, I would still prefer to get a text to a call.
Q: Roughly, how many emails a day do you receive from PR pros?
A: 20-35, depending on day of week. More Mon-Wed, usually less Thurs-Fri. Nearly none Sat-Sun.
Q: What was the worst email you have ever received from a PR pro?
A: Hmm. I don't want to name names or anything. But I can point to a worst. Characteristics included sentences that didn't relate to the ones previous, half-baked information (leaving out prices or leaving out other details), unrelated information in blubbering paragraph form, which led to this tweet: https://twitter.com/phillydesign/status/476322290226192384
Q: How much time should PR pros give journalists to respond to their press releases?
A: Depends on the industry. In food and drink, I think 4-5 days is a good measure for follow-up.
Q: What is your opinion on follow-up emails? Are they annoying to journalists or a helpful reminder when things get busy?
A: Useful. Emails can get buried fast. Just be honest that you are following up.
Q: What is your biggest pet peeve when working with PR professionals?
A: False pleasantries. You have a job to do, I have a job to do, let's do it together. "Happy Monday, hope you're well" is a waste of both of our time. See: https://twitter.com/phillydesign/status/392660197023305728
Q: We've entered an age where every company and individual can be a media outlet with the capacity to create and syndicate content, has that altered the PR-Journalist relationship and how would you describe that relationship?
A: Definitely altered. I get more of my news from Twitter than from email. I love catching wind of new dishes or promotions on twitter. In this way, there's a chance to get ahead of the other journalists — not scoops, necessarily, because it's all public, but if you follow up (sometimes through the PR firm), you have a chance of telling a better story, first and faster. PR folks are still very important. Most of social media is put out there for the general public, not for journalists. Entities still don't want to deal with writer questions, that's why they hire PR firms. PR is still an important liaison.
Q: Do PR pros depend more on journalists to do their job properly or vice-versa?
A: Depends on the industry/beat. If you're a crime reporter, or write about school funding, you do not depend on PR folks. If you're in tech or food, you do. In those cases, it’s a two way street.
Q: Can you tell a difference in a PR pro's approach depending on if they are local or from a different market? Do you prefer working with PR pros that are local or from different markets?
A: It's not so much local PR folks vs. out of town PR folks, but who their clients are. PR firms representing national clients (liquor brands, for example) are obnoxiously impersonal, while pretending to be your best friend. If a PR firm reps a local restaurant, they're usually responsive. That said, it's always nicer to work with local folks who really appreciate the entire vibe of the scene from minute to minute.