'Don't tell me what to do!'

It’s hardly controversial to state that the relationship between media representatives and PR professionals is a difficult one. The number of active journalists is significantly lower than the number of communications professionals. According to the Pew Research Centre, for every journalist there are four PR managers in the US. In Sweden, this asymmetry also exists, although less disproportioned. Here we need to factor in the painful fact that many of the people in our industry (to be fair, in any industry) contact the media ill-prepared or with bad timing.

The trick is to serve relevant and solid information to journalists. But I argue that it takes more than that.

Like in many professions, there is a strong sense of mission and pride in the media. That’s something for us, communications tribe, to be mindful of as the last thing we need is to step on their toes. On practical terms, this means that we can’t presume to write the articles for them. A valuable pitch can be made of well-thought, solid and timely information that is open enough and not too pristine or glossy. This pitch can often be made as a suggestion and include ideas of interviewees (whom we don’t represent), helping the contacted journalist build a sense of ownership.

Discussing this with colleagues, I’ve previously been told that this approach is naive and too generous. I do realise it does not work for all types of media or clients but I believe that avoiding to tell journalists how to do their job is a productive approach that leads to good results and builds goodwill and trust in the long run.

Sergio Guimaraes, Speaking of PR