Tony Plohoros
Principal, 6 Degrees

Few would argue that earned media is a powerful tool for reaching target stakeholders. Five years of healthcare journalists’ insights confirm that they want more help from PR practitioners if they’re to consider carrying our messages.

Journalists’ views have changed remarkably little during the time my firm has been surveying them. While I was initially disappointed by this lack of drama, I realized the real news is that what journalists continue telling us may fall on deaf ears.

Among some of our more troubling findings that have remained fairly consistent:

• there’s more pressure on journalists to produce, and less time to report stories

• a number of companies and organizations aren’t doing a good job working with the media

• PR firms get poor marks for the quality of their pitches and mediocre grades for respecting journalists’ time and overall experiences working with them

These findings matter because they tell us that many PR pros hinder their clients’ and employers’ ability to reach target audiences through the media…and  likely impair their organizations’ reputations at the same time. This isn’t an indictment of PR pros who work with the media. Far from it. There are many extremely competent practitioners from whom I’ve learned much.

The good news:  journalists have given us a roadmap for how to effectively work with them.

If you’re hiring a PR agency, make sure the firm is suited to represent you to the media and help you achieve your objectives. Ask firms you’re considering:

• who will interact with journalists on your behalf (including their level of experience with media and your industry);

• what relationships that person has with journalists at outlets that reach your targets (get names and numbers); and

• who will draft your written materials (ask for samples)

For organizations shoring up their in-house efforts, the process is easier:  ask some key journalists for thoughts about their interactions with the organization. Given the scores that organizations receive in our survey, it’s apparent that some executives don’t want to hear what journalists would say. Too bad. They’re leaving their ability to drive business results and their organizations’ reputations at risk.