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Putting The ‘Relations’ Back Into Public Relations

by Ralph Crosby

As I recently told an audience of Public Relations Society members, “for PR pros and their clients one of their most important customers is the media.”

My advice:  Treat media members as you would treat any other important customer.  Cater to their needs.  Grab their attention with substance, not fluff.  Be honest.  Make their life easier.  Forgive their trespasses, even though they won’t always forgive yours. With the media, you have much to gain or much to lose.  Believe me, I know; I’ve been on both sides of the relationship.

As a journalist, I wrote stories that praised and stories that pilloried, and as a PR pro I’ve seen my clients both praised and pilloried.  Sometimes they didn’t rate the former and didn’t deserve the latter.  But, through it all, experience shows that if you treat the media as a customer, you’ll get more praise than pain.

Building relationships with reporters, editors, publishers, bloggers, etc., builds trust which, in turn, improves your chances of favorable media coverage.  As the editor of a major metropolitan daily recently told one of my staff, “relationships can mean the difference in having your e-mail read or deleted.”

Journalists are human beings, with personalities, sensitivities, and a time-pressured job to do.  Work on building lasting professional, yet personal, relationships with them.  Try to get on a first-name basis.  Know the position and responsibilities of your media contacts.  Exchange ideas and even disagreements when there’s no hot issue going on.  Show appreciation for their work when it’s good.  Discuss problem areas in a diplomatic but firm manner when there’s been an error.  Work on building these relationships now, and the rewards will come later.

Recently, Brian Solis – author, blogger and social media expert – speaking at a PRSA International Conference, defined the future of PR in terms of building relationships.  He said, “It’s up to PR practitioners to put the ‘relations’ back into public relations.”

Solis said that it’s time to use social media to reinvent PR by making relationships matter again.  I agree with his premise that the future of PR lies in creating shareable experiences; and that you should approach your social media and marketing strategy from the perspective of your customer.  He pointed out that customers have to go through a journey with an organization, and PR should help define this whole journey and experience.  He concluded:

“Think about your customers, how you communicate with them and how they communicate with each other, and consider what’s important to them.”

Building relationships with “customers,” whether they’re in the media or in the marketplace, remains – as it always has been – the basic premise of public relations.


Ralph Crosby

Founder & Chairman

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