The recent termination of a news commentator who allegedly “crossed the line” between journalism and promotion is one of several recent events that have placed a spotlight on questionable public relations practices and consumer trust in the media and PR industry. Armstrong Williams, a news commentator whose articles run in prominent newspapers, was paid by the Bush administration to promote the “no child left behind” policy.
Before the blog phenomenon became publicized and the word “weblog” was applied, consumers and critics were hosting their own Web sites and commenting on companies they liked or disliked. At that time these pre-bloggers were considered pests – now they are being courted and treated like royalty.
The impact of blogs can be felt in every area today, from politics (bloggers covering the conventions were given huge media exposure) to breaking news (the CBS scandal referenced in our “Blurring the Line” article was promulgated by conservative bloggers questioning the evidence in the news story) to new products and technology.
Too often, PR people try to interest journalists in “news” stories that aren’t newsworthy. Trying to place a news spin on a content story is misleading and can result in negative opinions on you, your company, and your story.
There are many stories worth telling that aren’t exactly newsworthy. If you have correctly identified the journalist and the story is relevant to his/her beat, giving them a story pitch with a relevant angle can bring you positive results.
Journalists live and die by deadlines. Woe to the PR practitioner who does not respect this fact. Here are a few tips to help you stay on the good side of your media contacts.
1. Understand the editorial cycle. Know the deadlines you media contacts work under and avoid approaching them just before a deadline. Distractions caused by phone calls and emails when under a pending deadline will drive a journalist crazy – and place you on a list you don’t want to be on.