Some call it ‘poacher called gamekeeper’ – the interdependent relationship between a journalist and a PR is vital but fraught with potential difficulties.
This week that delicate balance was highlighted when a PR company representing MasterCard – sponsors of the Brit Awards – was supposed to have asked journalists to guarantee coverage in return for gaining accreditation and attendance.
Telegraph columnist Tim Walker appealed to colleagues not to agree to the conditions and refuse to issue the Twitter messages they allegedly asked journalists to send.
So how should PR people and journalists work together for their mutual benefit – after all, there is no doubt they both need each other?
Channel 4 News’ political correspondent Michael Crick’s favourite PR is Ian Parker, who represents Labour in the House of Lords. According to PR Week, the reporter says Parker is “very friendly and brilliant at tipping us ignorant reporters off about future events and the intricacies of complicated legislation.”
The same magazine has just identified the industry’s most inspirational young talent and everyone in the elite group, from a one man-band, to high flyers in vast empires, received recognition. According to those who recommended them, many seemed “brilliant” at working with reporters.
So what attributes do PR people need to succeed in the industry and become a favourite with a journalist? As journalist Heidi Russell puts it, what makes you “shake your fist and curse or thank God for putting them on planet Earth”.
According to our research no one attribute tops the list, but as reporter Nick Booth puts it: “Respond quickly, be available and be able to explain your own press releases and understand what a Jpeg 300 DPI means and why it’s important.”
It’s a difficult path to tread, if PRs issue conditions and interfere with editorial control, as Walker said in the Press Gazette: “If they are going down that route they should really take out an advertisement.”
Mastercard denied their access to the awards was conditional but some journalists were using the agreed hashtag.