Why the human element of PR matters

By Mary Mtabali
International Women's Day

It may come across as hard to befriend the so  called ‘media beast.’

At the end of the day, PR folks are from Venus, journalists are from Mars, right? Sometimes it seems that way, especially in this digital age. Nevertheless, all PR pros should be mindful of the human element in public relations to foster more positive media coverage. This is more–so now more than ever, because fewer PR pros are honouring it.

In the modern digital age, some millennials rely too much on social media and electronic communication alone. They would rather converse with reporters via Twitter than meet face-to-face.
Nevertheless, practicing effective public relations should always involve proactively reaching out on a personal and professional level in order to incorporate that human element value in the relationship.

Forge relationships

All PR folks should try getting to know journalists on a basic human level. This goes a long way toward building mutual respect, goodwill and trust – all of which are essential elements of any good relationship.
Forget about the ‘us versus them’ mentality. Get out of the trenches and meet journalists in person. Get to know them on a professional and personal level. It may be over coffee, drinks or dinner, or attending the same industry events. Ask them to come and have a talk at your workplace to shed more light on how the media industry works. Whatever the opportunity, the human level interaction offers a depth and context that email and social media lack…if you can pull it off.

Silence stereotypes

It’s important to recognise that most journalists are decent people not ‘media beasts.’
Most professional journalists are more than merely bylines on a newspaper or TV ‘talking heads.’ They are real people who deserve sincere respect and recognition for a job well done, as warranted and appropriate.
When a journalist does a good job, let him or her know it. Be respectful when errors are made or clarifications are needed. They’re bound to make errors because they’re human. Don’t be a constant complainer because you deem a story to be imperfect. Save your arguments for when it really counts. But  how can you get started?
Like mentioned before, try getting out of your silo, leaving the trenches and meeting journalists one-on-one. If it’s possible you can, visit their newsrooms, give them an informal ‘off-the-record’ tour of your organisation and introduce them to your executives.

Express genuine interest

As a PR pro, don’t forget that expressing genuine interest in a journalist can go a long way to solidify that positive human element relationship. That’s why it pays dividends to go the extra mile by learning some basic information about journalists. This can lead to common ground and help build mutual trust. Find sweet spots of common ground and build upon them.
Consider these simple personal questions;

  • Where did the journalist attend college?
  • What’s their hometown?
  • How did they first get into journalism and why?

Remember that personalising public relations allows each party to view the other as an individual rather than just part of a perceived adversarial institution.
Do you want to reach out to journalists and establish a face-to-face rapport with them? Find out how you can avail of the MediaHQ contacts database for journalists by calling Gaye on (01) 254 1845 or by clicking here.



Mary Mtabali

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