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Public Relations Tips: How to Deal with Journalists’ Egos

I recently received an interesting email from a PR Fuel reader that serves as an interesting public relations talking-point: “I recently emailed a press release to a newspaper writer and then followed up with a call. The writer said she doesn’t pick up email but was interested because of the telephone pitch. She was sending a photographer and going to cover [the story] and then I get an after hours call saying she is canceling her participation because I didn’t tell her I contacted another writer at the same paper. Bottom line is I am probably not getting any coverage and don’t know where I took a wrong turn.”

Welcome to the wonderful world of newspaper egos. Unfortunately, journalists are a pain in the butt to deal with and one reason is big, fat egos. In this case, it sounds like the writer who was interested in the story gave up on it because she was no longer getting the “scoop” she so desired. Even though the story hadn’t gotten any coverage already, it seems the writer who bailed on the story lost interest once she knew a colleague had the scoop also.

This is obviously unfortunate and the public relations contact did nothing wrong. The point of public relations is to get media attention for your story; you simply can’t sit back and wait on a journalist to do your job for you. Had your initial pitch failed at the first paper, you would have had to wait to find this out and scramble to find an alternative venue for your story.

One of the problems with the media is that many times it doesn’t serve the public interest like it should. Journalists get caught up in office politics and competition. In the process, we miss good — and sometimes important — stories.

The best way to avoid this situation in the future is tell the reporter that you “double-dipped” at the newspaper and pitched someone else. Or just pitch one person per paper. If a reporter asks you about who else you pitched, try your best to be honest without giving anything away. “Oh yeah, I pitched someone at the other paper, but they haven’t gotten back to me. If you’re going to cover the story, I just won’t give them access.”

Again, this particular case is unfortunate and the journalist in question showed a definite lack of professionalism by rejecting the story because one of her colleagues was also pitched. If the story was interesting or newsworthy enough to warrant coverage, why not just write the story? Probably because ego got in the way.

This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.

2 Responses

  1. Former Journo says:

    Looks like this article’s writer also needs an ego check.

    If the journalist in question canceled her coverage, it’s not because she’s missing out on the “scoop.” The PR Fuel reader’s story itself gives the reason right there in black and white: “I didn’t tell her I contacted another writer at the same paper.” There is absolutely zero reason for two writers from the same paper to cover the same topic/event because it’s a waste of newspaper resources. If one person already has the story, then your event is being covered.

    Untwist your panties from their wad. You’re being the inconsiderate, egotistical one in the PR-journalist relationship by expecting everyone everywhere to jump on your story. Perhaps it’s outside of the paper’s regional coverage. Perhaps it’s a blatant ploy on your part to try to get free advertising in a news story and the writer is aware of this and has real stories to cover. Perhaps it’s because another writer is already on the story. Your histrionics are showing your personal “definite lack of professionalism” all on your own.

  2. PR Fuel says:

    Thanks Former Journo. Obviously, this is an issue that you are passionate about. We never know the many reasons a reporter runs hot then cold on a story. Thanks for the perspective.

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