A big part of my job is shouting (not literally, I’m not a town crier) about all the good work the company I work for does. To do this, I engage with journalists to provide them with interesting stories to tell.
As a former journalist myself – nothing major, just regional print journalism – I like to think I know a good story when I see one, and equally I know when I shouldn’t be wasting a journalist’s time. And when I know I have a decent story and I’m positive a journalist would like to see it in their publication, I get annoyed when it doesn’t get coverage. But that’s the game. I might give them a couple of nudges but I’m not going to hound the journalist until they print or broadcast.
That’s how it was when I was a journalist, at least. Nowadays I hear way too many stories of PR people pushing stories down journalists’ throats or promising exclusives when they’re not exclusive at all. There’s a real problem generally about PR folk not understanding the life of a journalist. I know I’m in a privileged position to have tasted life on both sides of the fence, but I wouldn’t hire someone in my new field if they hadn’t had real life work experience working in the media.
But it’s not just PR people who don’t get how the game works – or worked, anyway. I recently offered a story to the food production trade press – and yes, there are quite a few publications that’d be interested in this type of thing – and got a few bites, if you excuse the pun. But to my amazement, two editorial-led publications came back and said they were interested in the content but wanted me to pay between £50-£150 to get it published. I’m sorry, but that’s not journalism.
These ‘editors’, and yes they called themselves ‘editors’ not ‘sales managers’ or whatever, wanted me to pay for coverage. I don’t do advertorials, they just don’t work. People rightfully see through them. If my content is good enough, it’s good enough. End of conversation.
So is my industry changing? I hope not, because we’ll be left with pathetic paid-for editorial gracing the shelves of newsagents instead of insightful industry news. So perhaps I shouldn’t be worried with PR people not having journalism experience and more concerned with journalists not having journalism experience.