From both sides now

As a PR professional I know that the media – and having good relationship with them – is vital for the success of my campaigns. But, as a blogger (where I get to play at being a journalist), I have come across the best and worst of the PR industry. Here’s what I think we can learn from one another.

In my day job I work in public relations but in my spare time I am an avid cook and more recently, a blogger. So far almost all of my posts have covered what I’ve cooked, tried or discovered but now I am trying to branch out and include more product reviews and a wider focus on my other loves including décor, beauty and “the good life”.

Editorial integrity

Earlier this year I sent out a request for ideas for Valentine’s Day that I could use on my blog. I’m delighted to report that I received a fantastic response. However if you think I will simply use your high res photos and press release as is, you’d be wrong. Just as when I send something out to the media I hope that it will pique their interest, I don’t expect them to use it verbatim.

I know that media rooms are shrinking and that they may be short staffed – and I suppose ...

this is one reason why bloggers are getting such a look in – but for the piece to have real integrity, you’d like it to be reworked and for the journalist to write their own story.


Is there anyone out there?

I know that we all receive far too much email each day, but responding to me and letting me know that I’m off the mark with my pitch is helpful. Having said that if I send a journalist something I’d like them to consider, I make sure I’ve done enough research to ensure that it’s relevant for their publication (or station).

In terms of the requests I receive I make a point of responding to each one to either let the sender know that I’m interested, it’s not right for me or that I need to think about it. But, I do respond.


Walk a mile in my shoes

The other night I was chatting to a journalist who told me that she hates it when PR people call her as she finds it so intimidating. She said, “They’ve prepared what they want to say but I often feel caught off guard.”

I found this fascinating as I’ve found I often have the most success when I get to speak to journalists and editors on the phone. Perhaps because it gives me the chance to suss out what they think of my idea and that it gives me a chance to make a connection of sorts with them. But, the lesson here is that just as some people hate email, others don’t like the phone. They key is to find what works for whoever you’re trying to reach.


Are you attending or not?

Something that PR professionals battle with is getting media to attend media events and launches. Either the media don’t respond to the invitation or they say they’re coming and don’t pitch up. Couple this with the sometimes unrealistic client expectations that “we need to get 30 media here”, events can be a challenge.

Of course the media you want to attend need to feel that there’s something interesting and valuable in it for them. Sometimes the pushback we need to give to our clients is that a media event is not the right approach. Is it perhaps better to have a few one-on-one meetings? Or just a press release? The story, will of course dictate.

In my experience when I am invited to a media event I try and decide upfront if it’s the right fit for my blog and if so, I RSVP and then attend if I say that I will. If I subsequently can’t attend, I let the organiser know. This is more to do with manners than anything else for me, but that’s my personal opinion.

Running my own blog is a wonderful creative outlet for me and I love the freedom that it gives me to really say what I feel. However, it has also helped me to see both sides of the fence and, in turn, to be better to my day job.

Jennifer Leppington-Clark is a Group Account Director and Head of the Consumer Practice at Hill+Knowlton Strategies South Africa. When she’s not at the office she also writes a blog, which shares her views on food, beauty products, lifestyle, and décor.