From PR Pro to Spokesperson: Keeping The Reporter Happy




When reporters think of a PR professional, it often times is a negative image. If you interview a journalist and ask them about PR, they most likely will end up cringing. But this relationship doesn’t have to be sour.


Besides the obvious of making your PR documents newsworthy and contacting the right reporter with the beat that fits your client, there are more in-depth tactics for keeping a friendly relationship amongst the PR pro and reporter.


In Steve Goldstein’s 9 Ways Spokespeople Can Annoy Reporters, he talks of these common issues that can be resolved in profound ways—focusing on the spokesperson. He admits that yes, it isn’t an illusive secret that journalists are tired of inappropriate stories being pitched to them. But it goes much further than those basic annoyances.


Once you land an interview with a reporter, your next PR job is to prepare your spokesperson. If they are unprepared or non-interactive during the interview or fail to provide good information, then the meeting has lost most of its purpose. In fact, the spokesperson can entirely flaw the interview by being useless. What Goldstein is getting at here is that a great pitch is only the beginning; your spokesperson must go through media training to be prepared for the actual meeting.


Bonnie Shaw, president of Clearpoint Agency, is aware of this issue as well. She believes that the actions spokespeople have during an interview are defining to success, and any one bad action can result in you automatically being deleted before the e-mail is even opened.


Some of these actions include the obvious, such as starting late, postponing interviews, inability to meet deadlines, rude behavior, and lack of brevity. However, Shaw also states some very accurate in-depth theories.


For starters, your spokesperson should never travel with an entourage, as they add no value to the meeting, possibly even interrupting it and may appear bored. Another detail is to never allow your spokesperson to give the reporter a copy of an old interview for reference and background details. In my opinion, this is telling the reporter to ignore the value of their job, as the point of your interview is for the journalist to get the story first hand. Going back in a previous interview for information is similar to telling them to read an article and retype it. Similarly, never allow the spokesperson to dictate the story angle and content. They are there to provide the story, not manage it. Again, this is trying to take the wheels on the journalist’s job.


Another major issue can be when the spokesperson thinks that because they are being advertised that they automatically would be spoken of positively in the article or broadcast. It can be difficult for people to understand that just because something is about them that it may not necessarily be good things. Squash entitlement with your person of image. They are not allowed to have authority, they cannot request to be the lead story or review the material before the story is released. They are simply there to be the story, again, not controlling it.


Last but not least, Shaw explains that neglecting to follow up on promised items or images for the story is a major downfall. Reporters must get their own originally sourced images and content for their stories.


You are their source.


Don’t be a bad source.


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