A quick google of ‘how not to annoy a journalist’ throws up numerous articles. The same is true, although to a slightly lesser extent, for the search ‘how journalists annoy PRs’
A quick google of ‘how not to annoy a journalist’ throws up numerous articles. The same is true, although to a slightly lesser extent, for the search ‘how journalists annoy PRs’. Yet, really, what does all the finger-pointing really achieve? Nicola Tavendale writes.
As a FinTech and finance journalist, I’m very aware of the various gripes and annoyances that regularly crop up when trying to get things done – especially when working with FinTech PR and communication teams. Yet since going freelance, much of my work is now also directly commissioned by PR agencies.
So having seen a little more of what really happens on both sides of the curtain, I thought I’d share a few insights into why things happen the way they do, what annoyances can be avoided and some examples of how working more closely together achieves a whole lot more.
Thank you for the lovely socks or when a hot FinTech exclusive isn’t so hot
As presents go, socks are usually a bit of a let-down. In the real world, many of the exciting exclusives that hit a journalist’s inbox fall under a similar heading. Some FinTech firms will inevitably have more going on in the way of news and big announcements than others. PRs are therefore under some pressure to think of alternative opportunities to get their client – and their message – out there.
Even when we do get a genuine ‘heads-up’ on a newsworthy story, it’s very rare that our competitors won’t already have been offered the same. But when we know and trust the PR, and have shown we can also be trusted, then these stories do prove very welcome indeed. Keep them coming!
On message or ‘off-the-cuff’?
Arranging a call for your FinTech client with a journalist, or even better getting them out together for coffee, is another great way to get their message out – or to develop useful journalist relationships in the FinTech industry. But the reality is that we will often leave a meeting without knowing its purpose or what the message was. Of course, part of the job is for us to find the most interesting angle and run with that.
This may not, sadly, be the story that you or your client were hoping for! On the other hand, while it’s worth knowing what you’d like to get out there, some people are now so “on-message” that most of their interesting and unique ‘sparkle’ never comes out. It’s good to prepare your client, to make sure they have some key information they want to get across and to request the meeting to be ‘off-the-record’ – but please encourage them to still be themselves.
Attention to detail
Competition can be fierce in the PR world and client expectations are high. This is why FinTech PRs are so keen on being able to quote check – in the last year I’ve even had requests to view the final copy as well prior to publication. From the client’s perspective, they are keen to avoid the publication of factual errors which may create issues at an organisational level.
From the PR’s perspective, they know how often these errors crop up – often when the story is already in print. Yet the reason journalists are not always keen to offer quote checks is because it can cause delays. Even worse, the quotes come back completely re-written – often to the detriment of the whole story.
Too many interesting and insightful stories are rendered a bit grey and safe by overzealous rewrites. It is again all a matter of trust. If the copy comes back in the timescales described, then running quotes past a PR or comms team first can be a useful step in the process, rather than a source of frustration.
When I was starting out in financial journalism, I was told repeatedly not to be concerned about what PR agencies and comms teams thought. Instead, the prevailing sentiment was ‘publish and be damned’. And it’s a sentiment still expressed by certain journalists and editors today. Yet in my experience, taking the time to build relationships with the PR side of the financial services industry has paid dividends – and still does.
Ultimately, it takes both parties to make communications in our industry work. As financial journalists, we need contacts, interviews, facts and figures as well as industry insights, the overview of what’s going on – even a bit of gossip! FinTech PR professionals also know their industry inside-out and can offer real value to journalists.
And in turn, PRs can get their client’s the press coverage they want – be it through news, features or thought leadership pieces. As is the case with any industry, investing a little time and effort into relationship building can, and does, pay off for us all.