Who you know is not as important as what you know

New clients have a lot of questions about PR, such as how it works and when they can expect results. When it comes to media interactions, they almost always ask some variation of, “Who do you know at XYZ publication?”

The honest answer is: It doesn’t matter.

Many PR agencies have large contact databases, and PR pros love to drop reporter names when pitching business. However, that’s not what gets companies ink.

After working as a PR professional for many years, I too know a lot of reporters, editors and producers across many industries. More importantly, I know what they want:

  • Accurate information from a trustworthy source. If the reporter can depend on a PR person to be truthful about the client, deliver interesting information and meet deadlines, he will be interested in talking to them. The client is leveraging the PR person’s reputation to get in the door so that reputation better be sterling when it comes to delivering the goods on time.
  • Respect for the reporter. Reporters have difficult jobs. They work under tight deadlines and produce work that is scrutinized by editors and readers. It’s only natural that they want to deal with PR folks who are courteous of their time and effort. A PR pro who badgers reporters may be successful in placing one story, but it’s unlikely the reporter will work with him again.
  • A relevant story. Reporters won’t necessarily be interested in the story you want to tell about how great your company is. A good PR pro can help you refine your angle so it appeals to the reporter’s audience. Reporters are looking for stories that show how you solved a problem or how your product meets market demands.
  • A well thought-out package. Most reporters are leery of writing an article about a single company. They and their editors fear it will look as if they are biased. The best way around that is to cover several companies as part of a single story. If the PR person can suggest who to reach out to at other companies besides his client, it helps the reporter and increases the chances of media coverage.

When selecting a PR firm it’s important to understand that who the PR team knows isn’t nearly as important as their ability to build strong relationships with reporters.

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