Yesterday we were lucky enough to have Leigh Holmwood, Deputy Head of TV at The Sun come and talk to us, and so I’m about to tell all on what he knows about that controversial relationship between PR’s and Journalists. Before we delve in, let’s take a look into Leigh’s background…
Leigh was news editor of the student newspaper whilst he studied Politics & Modern History during his degree years, going on to gain work experience and then a job at a local newspaper (see, work experience is SO important!). Following this Leigh worked for trade magazine Broadcast, and then took a year out to travel the world. Leigh then became a freelance journalist, then went on to work at The Guardian, and is now setting the agenda for popular culture at The Sun.
Now, lets get on to why you’re all reading … Our talk today was centered around that all important (albeit slightly controversial) relationship between a journalist and PR practitioner, and what you can do to manage it …
Firstly, its important to know the basic facts about media management – journalists really can’t do their job without PR’s, but that works in reverse too! To start up a mutual relationship, its imperative to be polite, understand the role each of you have, and what you want from it!
Here’s where you have to be careful though – being transparent is so, so crucial! Leigh gave us some brilliant advice to avoid any conflict … always treat and compare any of the contact you have with your journalist to a real life situation – would you want someone you hardly knew to start acting like your best friend? (we doubt it!) So make your tone personal, friendly and open, not automated like a machine!
Telephone advice is really valuable, so here’s a little more for you (just in case that part time receptionist job I’m sure we’ve all experienced wasn’t enough) … Don’t be afraid of it! Always call either early morning or afternoon, and never, ever lie or use that famous “no comment” phrase! (Say “let me look into that and get back to you” – Gives you time to gather your thoughts!)
Another problem the PR/Journalist relationship faces is the following up of a story – whilst it’s great to check the journalist received the info, they probably did – and haven’t contacted you because they’re not interested! So, by sending the email first with your story, it gives you a reason to call . Simply ask if they’re interested in your story or not – if not, navigate your story elsewhere! (Essential knowledge to all PR’s – take note!)
When trying to sell in a story, Leigh has some invaluable advice – Keep it simple, be direct, and KNOW who you’re pitching to! (No one likes press releases with huge attachments and a variety of extensive pictures!)
We also discussed how the relationship can change when you’re doing PR for a celebrity – its a game! Their profile obviously needs to be kept high, and that’s why you’ll have gone to press in the first place – but keep it simple, extensive paperwork puts a journalist off their talent and often equals no publicity! (So, if your celeb wants press – make them prepared to give freely!)
Similarly, with corporate issues – be honest if there’s a script, and give off the record guidance (because surely this is better than bad,
or indeed no press at all?)
Leigh gave us a great insight to how we can help bridge back those gaps that have formed between the dishonest relationship between journalism and PR. So, what did we learn?
“it’s a marathon, not a sprint … you have to move on from grudges”
It’s all about being honest, open and clear – after all, journalists can see through pretty much anything – that’s their job! Think about your personal PR, and never, ever lie!