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Why Journalists Need PR People

Yesterday, we heard from Steve Yoder of The Wall Street Journal, who explained how to do a better job pitching stories to the Journal. Steve shared his thoughts at a PRSA Silicon Valley Media Training workshop last Friday.

Steve also told us his Top Nine Reasons Why Journalists Need PR People:

  1. Access: journalists recognize that we are gatekeepers and need us to gain access to busy executives
  2. Spokesperson: speaking on behalf of our company or client is part of our job, and journalists often need a quote or information from us
  3. Data provider/fact checker: we can help the journalist do his or her job by helping them with facts and figures and making sure they have the story right
  4. Fair commenter: Most mainstream media want to make sure they are getting the story right and giving all sides a chance to comment, and this is a very important part of the way the Journal operates. So at some point, if the Journal is developing a story about your company or client, it will want an interview with you or someone else to provide a comment and additional information. Steve's big tip: saying "no comment" makes the journalist's job easy -- they've given you your shot to participate in the article and you've passed.
  5. Tipster: the best PR people recognize that they can have value to journalists, and cement their relationships, by passing along information about what's going on in the world. You don't have to be a leaker or whistleblower -- it's more like being an extra set of eyes and ears. This applies both to outside information and to potential news stories within your organization that might not qualify as official press releases but might still make a good story.
  6. PR Pro as Educator of Journalists: "The more we know, the better off we are, and the more you know, the better we like you."
  7. Reality-checker/sounding board: "Does this sound right" is a question journalists like to ask PR people, hoping that they will get a subtle signal either to back off a story, or that they are on the right track.
  8. Advocate within your institution: Journalists need PR people to persuade executives to work with them.
  9. Storytelling aide: PR people can help put stories in context or help them find stories within their institutions.