As a recent graduate of Saint Joseph’s University and a newbie to the public relations industry, I often think about my time spent in college and how it prepared me for working in this field. While my classes and extracurricular activities provided a solid foundation, nothing helped prepare me more to work in the “real world” than my time as the features editor of The Hawk, my alma mater’s campus newspaper.
The two semesters in which I served as an editor for The Hawk taught me valuable lessons that every PR professional should know – specifically, the importance of developing relationships with journalists. While working as features editor, my email Inbox was flooded with news releases and pitches from PR professionals. In fact, to this day, I still receive press releases via email seeking an article opportunity in The Hawk. I will admit that, back then, almost every time an email with the words “press release” appeared, I was tempted to hit Delete without even opening it. Most of those messages did not provide anything helpful and were a waste of my time … or so I thought.
Fast-forward to more than a year later. Here I am as a young PR pro, anxiously hoping for at least one reporter to respond to the news release or pitch I worked so hard to write and customize. Talk about a role-reversal, huh?
Nowadays, I use my experiences as a college newspaper editor to help improve my work and build relationships with reporters. Whenever I reach out to the media, I always think about the numerous requests I used to get from PR professionals and how frustrated they made me. Emails that were addressed to the wrong person, contained information that did not apply to the topics I covered or appeared to be completely automated left an impression that these people simply did not do their research. While opportunities to interact are supposed to be beneficial for both the reporter and the PR professional, the messages I received almost always portrayed otherwise.
Having the opportunity to work as both a journalist and a PR pro has taught me how important it is to go the extra mile in securing media coverage. Even if it takes more time to look through a reporter’s bio in CisionPoint or research an article he or she has written on a particular topic, putting in that effort could result in a lasting relationship and positive coverage for your client.
When I recently distributed a media pitch for a Buchanan PR client and received multiple replies from reporters, I was thrilled. I knew that I was able to successfully secure media coverage without irritating reporters along the way. While in my college days I may not have enjoyed opening an overflowing Inbox of news releases and pitches, after seeing the fruits of my labor post-graduation, I am ever so grateful when a reporter takes the time to read what we send.