Public Relations practitioners are nice people; in an almost annoying way. I have believed this for a long time. When I was in the news room I would hate it when someone from an agency would call to ask when their story would run. Because they would start with such annoying polite pleasantries like they care what is going on with your life but at the end of that conversation you already know what they want. I would also hate it when they would sit in on interviews to control the line of questioning so the story comes out in their favour. Yet the story would most often be a feel good one. I blogged about them on Facebook, called them brownnosers who are generous to a fault because I didn’t feel like I owed anyone anything.

It’s laughable because here I am now, not doing media relations yet, but learning from my colleagues, from the inside, what it actually takes to maintain relationships with journalists.
Not to plead my case now that I am on the inside but I have always believed we live in a one hand washes the other kind of society. You have to give something to get something. That’s how relationships are forged and maintained. Cultures have survived on this notion.

Now, we work with businesses that need to maintain long term relationships with media professionals so that they can work with them in the future. When a company maintains good relationships with journalists, it becomes easy to pitch for positive coverage and which company doesn’t want that!
The crucial point however, is to treat journalists with respect. Sometimes we work with clients who do not understand that journalists really matter.

For instance, once a journalist has a lead story, they really do not need a comment from the relevant organization’s top bosses once enough facts are available. They can easily run with a ‘no comment from the involved party’ and most often this works in their favour because it then forces the organization to react.

Recently, I overheard my colleague talking to a journalist the other day asking about coverage for an event that we had held a few weeks back and remembered how that used to tick me off. And then knew I had to write about it because she was nice. She asked about the journalist’s family, whether his young child had teethed, she asked about his job and listening to that I thought she was going to ask him what he had had for lunch and if it was delicious. I didn’t roll my eyes.
I smiled and thought; brownnosing is part of this trade. But it is also about building genuine friendships and long lasting relationships based on mutual respect.

About the Author: Silvia Nyambura

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