Do journalists view PR pros as friends or foes? That was the question posed by Trulia’s Ken Shuman at a panel he hosted last week. Respondents included — in order pictured above — AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher, Bloomberg Businessweek’s Doug MacMillan, NBC TechNow!’s Scott Budman and The Wall Street Journal’s Shayndi Raice. The full presentation (f-bombs and all) can be viewed here, and the tweet stream is at #friendorfoe.
In a room full of 100+ PR pros, it’s not surprising that all panelists agreed that PR flacks are not rivals. But PR pros definitely have an agenda! The more honest we are about our companies and our stories, the more credibility we can build over time. Another best practice is to offer resources beyond just our companies — customers, analysts, influencers and even competitors in the context of industry trends.
The journalists weren’t the only people in the room with agendas. WSJ’s Shayndi Raice gave PR pros props for having to pitch the most suspicious, skeptical people on the planet. Beyond a natural tendency toward cynicism, journalists are hungry for exclusives and extremely competitive with one another. As BBW’s Doug MacMillan noted, if you have true news, every publication will pick up the story, but if you have news and want a feature with in-depth analysis, you need to offer an exclusive. What he and the other journalists didn’t mention is that companies run the risk of offending outlets when they offer exclusives on truly juicy news.
The topic of exclusives came up during a discussion of embargoes. The panelists were sick to death of embargoes. The Wall Street Journal doesn’t accept them as a matter of policy, though sister blog AllThingsD will embargo news if it is offered as an exclusive. (Incidentally, stay tuned for more news on the relationship between WSJ and AllThingsD, as the partnership is due to expire this November.) Many panelists are annoyed by embargoes particularly because they see it as a PR tactic to make the news seem more important than it actually is. One thing they all agreed on — EVERYTHING you send them is ON THE RECORD. So, unless you have the reporter’s written embargo agreement in advance, assume the content of any email you send is on the record regardless if you state “off-the-record” or “embargo until (date)” in the subject line or body.
In a discussion of PR pet peeves, NBC’s Scott Budman gave a particularly poignant one: overpromising and underdelivering on a story. Be sure to get your ducks in a row before making the first outreach because it’s really difficult to improve your reputation after a gaffe.
Here are some of the biggest opportunities we can look forward to with the panelists’ respective outlets in 2012:
AllThingsD: New video and audio content products are currently being designed. Get your b-roll ready, and stay tuned for new hires!
BloombergBusinessweek: The outlet has nearly doubled the editorial staff in the last year and added a lot of new blog channels. Don’t forget the expansion of its San Francisco TV facility Bloomberg West.
NBC: While Scott Budman’s 90-second spot typically feature gadgets, he tries to conduct a 3-minute CEO interview each week and is always looking for Bay Area movers and shakers for that spot.
Wall Street Journal: Trend stories are the best way for smaller companies to gain notice; pitch issues, context, industry experts and competitors. Another unsung opportunity is the Bay Area section, for which the outlet is always looking for story ideas in all beat categories (provided there is a Bay Area tie).
Image by Townsend Advisers.