Hacks vs Flacks: Insight for PR Pros

PRWeek recently published an interesting survey about journalists and PR professionals’ thoughts on each other’s roles, skill level, and more.

The “Hacks vs Flacks” survey asked 300 respondents a series of detailed questions over the course of a year to more fully understand the relationship between those doing the pitching and those receiving them. Some of the findings:

  • Over 80% of PR pros strongly agreed that journalists have a hard job while 52% of journalists said the same thing about PR pros.
  • Almost 2/3 of journalists said they would definitely or probably do well in PR and the same roughly 2/3 of PR pros said they would make a great journalist.
  • Only 38% of journalists strongly agreed that PR pros are good at their jobs while 66% of PR pros agreed that journalists are good at theirs.
  • 82% of journalists said PR pros treat them with respect and, 72% of PR pros said the same.

A typical comment from PR pros was that journalists are often rude, abrupt, or arrogant. Some pointed out that with reduced newsroom budgets many more journalists today are unqualified and focused on content quantity over quality. Others mentioned that even talented journalists are compromised by the lack of time, resources, and staff.

Journalists overwhelmingly said that PR pros still don’t do enough research on their target publications before sending a pitch, with many not even doing the bare minimum of reading or watching to understand what they write about. Some felt like the majority of pitches in their inbox are complete spam.

The takeaway for PR pros?

Most of these themes have been written about before: a small percentage of people (I believe) spamming journalists continue to sour many on the industry as a whole. Although, the economic climate in the media industry means that journalists’ jobs are turning over faster than ever before– making it harder than it used to be to form the long-term relationships that strengthen trust between both parties.

Still, common sense matters. Yes, know the publication and journalists you’re pitching. Be the arbiter of newsworthiness for your clients. There are times when what they want to pitch just isn’t newsworthy enough. Counsel them on other avenues to get the word out beyond earned media.

When something will likely be of interest, get to the point quick in emailed pitches and always start a phone call by saying what you’re calling about, who you’re calling on behalf of, and asking if the person has time to talk. It gives them a quick out to get off the phone in seconds, not minutes.

Also, knowing that resources are tight, time is scare, and there’s real pressure on journalists to produce content, help them out by doing more of “their” work. Provide absolutely everything they’ll need for a story, at times even names of competitors to talk to, along with outside sources to quote, quick access to company spokespeople, links to high-quality multimedia assets, and more. Offer to do the writing in the form of contributed content instead of an interview. Be part of the solution to their work overload.

It would also be in journalists’ interest to engage in more positive feedback. That is, rewarding PR preparation, courtesy, and professionalism with increased coverage and access. It creates a virtuous cycle that adds more positivity to all of our workdays along with better results for clients and audiences alike.