Hacks vs Flacks… why it doesn’t really have to be that way.

Heather Peebles, Senior Account Manager

Following the fallout from this year’s exam results fiasco; various stories started popping up to help ease students’ fears about potentially not securing a university place. At Clark, we shared our own stories about our diverse backgrounds to illustrate that there’s #nowrongpath into PR.

One article that caught our attention was a piece (in a title that shall remain nameless) that listed the top 10 highest paid jobs you can do without a degree. The list had a range of professions, from public sector roles in nursing and the police to more niche gigs including visual effects artists and air traffic controllers.

Coming in at #2 was ‘Public Relations Officer’. Great, I thought. We all know that PR has a diversity problem with people in the industry coming from predominantly middle-class backgrounds and often, prestigious alma maters. Teams in public relations are meant to represent the public we serve, and this is difficult to achieve without employees from all walks of life. So, at first, I hoped the article could highlight PR as a viable career for young people who neither benefit from a bank of mum and dad nor want to be saddled with uni debt.

Sadly, the role was followed by the line ‘try and avoid this one if you can’, describing the job as ‘annoying people while managing an organisation’s public image and reputation’.

A damning and wildly inaccurate description of our work, I’m sure most PRs would agree. Clearly the journalist (who is anonymised, presumably for fear of being inundated by emails from angry PRs) has been burned by an experience with a bad PR operator in the past, but we shouldn’t all be tarred by the same brush.

In the age of a 24-hour news cycle, it’s never been more important for hacks and flacks to have strong working relationships, built on trust that will ultimately benefit both sides. After chatting to some of my #journochums here are some simple top tips to help make this happen;

1. Don’t be sloppy — it’s PR 101 but nothing irks a journalist more than a typo/grammar mistake. Make sure it doesn’t happen.

2. Media meets — try to meet up with journalists that you interact with frequently in person. There’s nothing better than putting a face to a name and it makes it easier to pick up the phone to them in future.

3. Know your geography (and theirs) — so your client is opening a new bar in Edinburgh? Great. But don’t bother pitching it to a journalist at the Aberdeen Press and Journal. Journalists hate being pitched a story that their patch doesn’t cover so do your research in advance.

4. Don’t flog a dead horse — if your client is pushing for a story that you know isn’t newsworthy — push back. Clients don’t pay us as media advisors to agree with them. Instead, they pay us to apply our media nous;  if you don’t do this you risk damaging your credibility and ultimately your client’s reputation with journalists.

5. Be honest — arguably the most important principle of all when it comes to nurturing relationships with the media. Journalists deal in facts, so it’s vital that you do too.

Hopefully, by following those five golden rules, we won’t ‘annoy’ our friends on the newsdesks and can provide them with the latest and most relevant stories for their readers while delivering the best possible coverage for our clients. Win-win!