Meantime Blog

News, views, insights, and musings from the Meantime teamon the world of PR, logistics, and Royal Greenwich

What do journalists want from PR and comms agencies?

After working for 12 years as a journalist, making the switch to PR has been an opportunity for Justin Burns to reflect on what journalists want from PR agencies

After more than 12 years plying my trade as a journalist and editor, I took my first step into PR and comms with Meantime Communications last month.

The new role has given me the chance to reflect on what journalists most want and need from PR and comms agencies.

During my career in journalism, I dealt with a number of PR and comms agencies, encountering vastly different experiences along the way, both positive and negative.

What journalists need most from a PR agency is clear, honest, fast, transparent, and efficient communications in every interaction.

PR professionals need to understand that journalists work to multiple, tight deadlines and need to be communicated with at all times.

I remember countless times as a journalist and editor I was let down by PR agencies over content after I had clearly communicated my deadline well in advance.

Journalists need to hear from their PR partners, even if an interview or answers to questions cannot be answered in time.

This is the definition of bad PR, as it puts journalists off working with the agency and the company they represent in future.

From a professional standpoint, if I really wanted to speak to a particular company, I would bypass the agency and make direct contact.

PR agency’s need to be efficient to take advantage of the planning process of a feature and news story, and also the production timeline of a magazine or newspaper.

Good agencies understand these processes and help take the pressure off journalists by being meeting deadlines and delivering.

The quality of content and storytelling being sent out to the media on behalf of a client would often make me wonder whether many PR and comms agencies really understood the needs and wants of journalists and editors.

At the end of the day, top quality, interesting content is what journalists/editors want, and the key to this is understanding what’s new and interesting.

Trying to get a story published that is pure PR spiel and has no engaging quotes and reads like an advertorial, will fool no editor or journalist into publishing it, simply because it’s not a news story.

In a world driven by the internet and social media platforms, there is no excuse for poor images or not including multimedia visual content like videos.

Journalists want engaging images or videos when writing an article, whether for use in print or online.

And this is another area where many PR agencies seem to get wrong rather than right.

Often low resolution, poor-quality images are sent out to accompany a press release, and in many cases, remarkably, no images are included at all.

To tell a great story, journalists need images, and they should be high on the list for all agencies when running a campaign, releasing a press release, or arranging an interview.

Finally, an important part of PR storytelling is getting journalists to attend press conference and events.

In my experience, journalists will always attend those where there is not only a good story but where there is the opportunity to carry out different interviews.

As a journalist, I prioritised speaking to companies that were open to talking freely and, in my opinion, the most transparent, frank-speaking and truthful companies always get the best coverage from the top tier media.

PR and comms agencies should always seek to maintain a strong dialogue and relationship with journalists and always be prepared to go that extra mile for a story, which in turn will only benefit their clients, and get them genuinely good PR.

About the author

Justin Burns

Justin was born in the year of the first Concorde flight. He studied Business & Marketing at university before teaching English in Japan, later attaining the NCTJ journalism qualification. In his career to date, he has been a regional newspaper reporter and aviation and airfreight reporter and editor. He has travelled to 64 countries and run four marathons.