Bad Journalistic Skills Are the Flip Side of Bad PR Pitches

Last Updated Oct 16, 2008 8:21 PM EDT

The bad PR pitches highlighted in yesterday's post about the new Dear PR Flack site are half of the equation. What about the other: bad reporting and writing skills?

Just as in any profession, there are some good journalists and a lot of mediocre ones. And just as in any profession, the good ones tend to rise to the top, while those with lesser skills make a living farther down the career ladder. It's not a perfect system, but you can usually guess that a Wall Street Journal reporter is more talented and experienced journalist than a typical trade or small-town newspaper reporter.

What this means for PR people is that you a) have to know who you are pitching or targeting and b) adjust your approach accordingly. And when you are dealing with individual journalists, you have to be on the lookout for hints into their level of professionalism.

Some of the things you can do to arm yourself include:

  • Get your messages together: it's easier to communicate what you want to say to the journalist and their audience than if you rely on the journalist to make sense of what you are saying
  • Get your act together: don't rely on the journalist to drive the agenda. Figure out as much as possible in advance of the interview: when it will take place, where, who will speak, what examples and other info you will give
  • Know the terms of the interview: is it "off the record," "on background," "not for attribution," or "on the record?" Make sure you figure this out before you or your spokesperson speaks
  • Follow-up: don't just pray for a good result. Send the journalist a summary of the interview, highlighting your key points and cleaning up any key quotes. Who knows? They may just cut-and-paste from your email.
My Dear PR Flack post also inspired a set of ideas from The Book Publicity Blog, which notes that very often, journalists ask to interview authors -- and that's it. Read their thoughts on what other information journalists might provide to publicists to insure that the interview goes well.
  • Jon Greer

    Jon Greer has been analyzing media and PR for more than 25 years. He's been a journalist and a PR executive, and has been a featured speaker for many years at the Bulldog Reporter Media Relations Summit, and served as Bulldog's Editorial Director for their PR University series of weekly how-to audio conferences.

    Jon provides PR services including media relations and freelance writing to clients including start-ups, law firms, corporations, investment banks and venture capital firms. In addition, Jon provides spokesperson training. Learn more about Jon's training programs at The Media Bridge.