WordCount – Freelancing in the Digital Age

By Michelle Vranizan Rafter

Top 10 things writers want from PR people

with 4 comments

It’s popular for writers to look down on PR people. The stereotypical media relations representative is inexperienced, doesn’t know one publication from another, hasn’t a clue about how the news business works, and actually makes it harder to get through to a source. While that’s an exaggeration, it’s still true that in many cases the PR bar is set pretty low.

But after years in the business I can honestly say a good public relations rep is a treasure. The true pros make my job easier because they understand what I’m after, quickly find the person or information I need, take it upon themselves to do whatever follow up is necessary, and don’t pester me with follow ups.

So for what it’s worth, here are 10 things a media rep can do to make my life easier:

1. When I call or email, promptly find the appropriate source for the story I’m working on, brief them on the topic and set up an interview time, preferably via email. And remember what time zone I’m in so I don’t get calls to my home office at insane hours of the morning or night.

2. If you must sit in on a phone interview, be invisible. But at the end of the call, note any information the source needed to check on and send it to me as quickly as possible.

3. Don’t assume I want to interview you. I don’t. I want to interview the subject matter expert at your company, organization, agency or school. So be a gatekeeper. In the rare situation where I’m OK with getting my quote from you, I’ll let you know.

4. Be easily accessible by office phone, cell or email should my editor have a question I need an answer to in a hurry. If you’re going to be out of the office, make sure someone is around who can answer my questions.

5. If I need file art for a story, send it to me or directly to the art director of the publication I’m writing the story for, in the appropriate file format.

6. Take it upon yourself to find out when my story runs rather than asking me to send you a link once it’s out. Honestly, I’ll be on deadline on something else by then and won’t remember.

7. Don’t ask to review stories before they’re published. You can’t. I have been known to send sources direct quotes to check for factual accuracy, but that’s the exception not the rule. It’s also why I ask what seems like a zillion very detailed questions during an interview, to make sure I’ve got the information down cold.

8. Feel free to email me press releases and other updates. But don’t follow up with a phone call, and don’t expect to hear back from me unless it just so happens I’m working on something related to the topic. Don’t be surprised if you never hear from me – or if I call six months down the line.

9. Know my publication. If you don’t, get up to speed by reading it online so when you’re pitching stories you understand who my readers are and what aspects of your news are relevant.

10. Accept my LinkedIn invitation so I can add you to my list of contacts there, which I regularly search when I’m looking for story sources. Or feel free to send me an invitation. And if you don’t use LinkedIn or Facebook, learn how.

4 Responses

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  1. Michelle,
    I’m happy to have found your site, and have been reading it for just over a month. Lots of great information, especially as I recently entered the world of blogging.

    As one who has crossed to the ‘dark side” — from reporter to PR person — I agree completely with your post. PR folks do, indeed, have a reputation as flighty, no-nothings. After having sat on both sides of the desk, I understand the reporter who needs info quick and thorough. I find it refreshing to talk to reporters and writers who are clear, direct and professional.

    My next mission: Educating clients about the value and role of PR personnel.

    Thanks for the insight, and the affirmation of my role as a conduit of information.

    – Drew Myron


    July 11, 2008 at 11:00 am

  2. Ditto on your entry. Bravo on your entry – wish PRs everywhere would check it out somehow (magically). I’ve saved this one. Especially the point about “take time to find the story” – as if we’re going to remember to write back with the link? and do not think we want to interview “you” rather than the real source.
    Egads, I was glad to see this. Sometimes I think it’s just me. I don’t look down on PR. Like you know, I know three excellent ones…and am thankful for them!


    July 12, 2008 at 5:08 pm

  3. […] best PR people understand all this and act accordingly, and when they do, they make reporters’ jobs that […]

  4. Michelle,

    This is my first time reading your web site, and it’s going into my favourites right away.

    As an aspiring PRO, I am taking your advice as a welcomed help, so I don’t drive the journalists mad from my day one. The template for stone etching is also getting ready.

    Thank you for a great post!



    February 21, 2009 at 2:23 pm

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