Why do journalists need PR?

Good PR agencies provide value not just for their clients, but for the publications too

In America, where they have time for these kind of studies, it’s estimated that the ratio of PR people to “pitchable” journalists is now 4 to 1. As a result, when most journalists hear “PR”, they instantly conjure up images of long, boring press releases that are of interest only to a very small number of people. In other words, PR could quite easily stand for Published Rarely.

That doesn’t have to be the case, though. Good PR agencies provide value not just for their clients, but for the publications too. It’s true that the 60-member, already-full, private society that you’ve launched is not going to do much for the journalist you’ve pitched it to, but a story about the desire for exclusivity amongst the rapidly growing black upper class is. Good PR aims to roll clients’ objectives into those of the media. In this sense the PR is doing the concept-building, fact-gathering and source-wrangling groundwork for the journalist and is thus helping him or her to do their job.

The key lies in realising that everything that happens is, to some degree, news. It might not be stop-the-presses, get-the-anchorman-a-stiff-drink news, but it is news. And whatever this news item is, it has to occur in some kind of context. Novelty and context are both essential in worthwhile journalism, meaning these are the qualities a PR agency should be striving to infuse into their stories.

The best way for journalists and PR professionals to work together is to both start from the same point of view, that of the end-reader. If the story doesn’t add value to the life of that reader, then the journalist isn’t going to publish it, and rightly so. Instead, the journalist and the PR need to work in a kind of symbiosis solely to produce value that works for both of them.

Many serious journalists used to look at Public Relations in disdain, believing it “tainted” their journalistic integrity. This is no longer. In a world of internet, smart phones and constant content, well-executed PR journalism is an excellent tool for the budding journalist. A story that is 10% PR and 90% hard news is no longer a compromise; it’s a necessity if publishers and news agencies want to maintain their impact without smashing their bottom line.

When it comes down to it, a journalist and a PR professional have the same goal: to get a message to as many people who care about it as possible. The trick to good PR is simply ensuring that your message is good enough.