And Then There Was Media

As we continue to examine ethics in the public relations industry, let’s close our 3-part “mini-series” with a look at media.

From local to regional to national and print to broadcast to online, most of us in the PR field work with members of the media each and every day. Some of us even worked as journalists prior to embarking on a second career.  And in this realm what would you say is the most important dynamic of interacting with the media? Securing placements for your client? I would argue that, rather, it is about building and maintaining trust.  How?

Professional Interaction:  This gets back to exhibiting mutual respect and professionalism at all times. Yelling at a journalist? Not a good idea; yet, it happens and lives on in newsrooms, spreading among reporter colleagues. Threatening an editor on behalf of a client that advertising will be pulled if a story doesn’t change will also ensure your credibility is diminished to zero.

Respect for the In-Basket: Reporters and editors receive a lot of pitches. Is yours truly newsworthy or are you pitching mall puppet shows to CNN? Is it going to the individual whose beat is appropriate to the story or are you wildly firing bullets out to random media lists hoping something sticks? Once your firm’s letterhead becomes synonymous with “junk” that is exactly the file where your press releases and media alerts will end up.

Terms: A reporter at a prominent business publications once told me how another PR firm repeatedly gave big stories on a particular client to his competition while pitching lesser stories to him.  Are you routinely promising “firsts” and “exclusives”? That’s fine as long as you spread the wealth and take care of everyone at some point.

Appropriate use of Media: The goal of most media is to tell the news with an unbiased perspective.  As such, PR professionals should always exercise respect for the medium. A counter to that is a firm putting forth a smear campaign, via press release and newswire on behalf of one client owed money by another entity. This entity subsequently sued client and PR firm and, rightfully, won.  A 5-figure lesson learned.  Telling an assignment desk, similarly, that they should send out a crew to an event because there are “hundreds on site” when there are not? Unethical.

Remember: Be ethical in how you operate and all that you do. It’s truly a reflection of who you are. It also reflects on our profession as a whole.