3 Ways Communicators Help Me Do My Job Better

February 1, 2018


As a journalist, the one group of people with whom I interact almost as often as my own colleagues are PR professionals.

And I count that as a huge plus.

For starters, they tend to understand the work of their respective companies and clients better than I ever could.

Quite often, a PR professional will share a story idea with an angle I hadn’t thought of — simply because he or she understands the subject matter from an insider’s perspective.

These folks also have direct access to the information and sources critical for me to do my job. Of course, there’s also the feature story and enterprise storytelling aspect of the job, of which I tend to have more editorial discretion.

When it comes to the latter, the better the PR personnel is with building professional relationships with reporters/editors and understanding our jobs, the more likely I am to write a feature story on that company or topic he or she pitches.

I can’t even begin to count the number of outstanding PR professionals I know who excel at relationship-building and understanding the work of journalists — all while representing the best interest of their client/company and performing professional PR work.

Here are three real-life examples of their habits:

1. They identify the topics a journalist covers and pitch them accordingly.

We have been pitched story ideas on everything from fast-food to rock music, both of which I love dearly, but neither of which our publication covers.

That’s not to say I don’t like off-the-beaten-path story ideas — but they have to be applicable to the auto industry. An example: virtual reality headsets. That might not seem like it fits, but a company that pitched me this idea tied it into how VR is becoming an effective sales tool in the car business. 

Whether you’re pitching a boilerplate story or something off the wall, make sure you understand and vocalize why it makes sense for that specific publication.

2. They offer the chance to follow up for more information.

Note: This does not mean asking to review the story before publication. Beyond the ethics involved, sharing a story for review creates a logistical logjam. In a deadline-driven business, slowing the process is the last thing I want to do.

But your client might be discussing subject matter that’s highly technical or legal-intensive. and you don’t want anything to get lost in translation. There’s a way around that: At the end of the interview, offer the reporter the opportunity to follow up if there’s anything that’s unclear as he or she is writing the story. On more than one occasion, I have taken advantage of that offer, and the story was better for it.

3. They provide feedback and the opportunity to share another side of the story.

One of the most helpful emails I receive from PR folks goes like this:

Hey, Joe. Read your story on Topic/Company ABC. We at Company XYZ do some work in that same and have some additional perspective on that topic. Might make an interesting story; can I set you up with one of our executives?

Doing this adds to the discussion, can offer another viewpoint to a complicated topic and gives stories more shelf life — all of which I sincerely appreciate.

I can’t emphasize enough how important PR professionals are to people in my line of work.  And more important, they’re valued and respected in this newsroom.

Joe Overby

Joe Overby is editor of Auto Remarketing, a leading trade media outlet for the pre-owned car industry. Follow him on Twitter at @AR_JoeOverby.


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