From poacher to gamekeeper

It could be said that I’m a bit long in the tooth to be starting a career in PR, but in my defence I have a USP that I hope transcends my age and new technology phobia.

And that is media insight. I am Connect PR’s genuine poacher turned gamekeeper; a former newspaper editor who has spiked more PR stories and barked down the phone at more PR execs than I care to remember.

And believe me, what goes around doesn’t just come around, it leaps from under the desk and bites you on the bum! So, much as I cringe when I have to ring newsdesk and ‘sell in’ my story, I can at least use my experience and pick the right time of day to make that call, and have the confidence to know that what I am submitting is a genuinely cracking tale.

For 21 years I worked in regional newspapers, as a reporter, a sub and latterly the editor of two paid for weeklies and one free sheet.
And if there is just one useful thing that I can pass on to my new colleagues in the Chubb Building, it is to offer up a press release that leaves the journalist with as little to do as possible! Copy and paste? Result!

To break it down, there are three golden rules to getting the best out of your media contacts.

Rule 1 – find the story. Journalists don’t deal in puff, they don’t want sales spiel, they want a proper, decent story. They haven’t spent three years of their lives qualifying as a reporter, having the who, what, where, when and why drilled into them, sitting in rural magistrates’ courts and draughty parish council meetings for nothing. Stories are their business, that is what they do – don’t undermine them by wasting their time with rubbish!

Rule 2 – clean copy. Check, check then check it again. Press releases from PR types can be, I’m afraid, the butt of a newsroom’s jokes because they are so often littered with literals, typos and poor grammar. Don’t single yourself out for such derision.

Rule 3 – hit deadline. I know, I know, easier said than done when dealing with clients. But if you can chivvy along the person approving your work, then do. Hacks really are working to tight deadlines, imposed on them by news editors, editors, printers and distribution managers. No one is going to hold, let alone stop the press for a PR comment!

If all of that sounds a bit depressing, never fear because the good news is that there is another side to this coin, and that is the fact that journalists need us. They have reams and reams of column inches to fill each day or each week from an ever diminishing pool of resources. It’s tough finding page leads, picture stories and even fillers on a quiet day.

All we need to do is send them words and images. That way, the paper has a topical, easy fix and we achieve ROI for our client – job done.

Sam, account manager