I’ve often considered that I have two sets of clients; the clients who pay for our PR services and the journalists that I work with. I’d like to say that both sets are equally important, but honestly, I would always favour the journalists and the editors over our clients. But the journalists don’t pay the bills I hear you cry. You are right, they don’t, but without the relationships that I have with the journalists the clients wouldn’t pay the bills either.
I’m a people person and I enjoy working with people that I like. Over the years I have built up good, solid relationships with the editors that I work with. I’m really good friends with many of them too – just as you naturally build close relationships with your colleagues. I hope that it’s because I am reliable, trustworthy and good to work with. It’s not fake – I’m simply not that clever to lead a double life. I honestly enjoy working with the editors and journalists that I do. I try to understand their problems, I take the time to understand their publications and their readers and to read their work, to understand what they are interested in writing about and what they have already covered, so I don’t try to sell in the same story and I earn what works and what doesn’t.
Trust is incredibly important in any relationship – especially when an editor is relying on you to help them fill pages. I once took on a client and I arranged a meeting with a leading industry editor. The meeting went well and we discussed an angle for a feature and we (the client and I) promised her some trend data that they could collect from their website. The editor loved the idea and based a whole double page spread feature around the data that the client said they could deliver. When it came to the crunch, the client pulled out and said that there had been a misunderstanding and that they’d never promised the data to her, so the editor was left with a gaping hole in her magazine flat plan. The editor was and still is a good friend of mine and I was distraught, so I worked hard and pulled out all the stops to help her to fill the hole. I explained the severity of the situation to the client but they were adamant that they’d never promised the data in the first place. This wasn’t actually the first time something like this had happened with them, so I decided to resign the account because I couldn’t risk that situation happening over and over again. The editor said that she would never feature that client again (and even 8 years later, she hasn’t) but thankfully our relationship is still very strong because if she had blamed me for the error, the break in our relationship would have impacted on all of my other clients. Thankfully this is the only time this has happened in my 20+ years in the industry.
Friendships and relationships are built on trust and it’s my policy to never let a journalist down. I’ll often get a call from an editor saying that a PR or a company has let them down, and so could I help? Could I get them a case study, an 800-word article or a profile piece over to them in the next hour or by close of play. I will always smile and say yes, and then it’s only when I put the phone down that my brain kicks into frantic mode and I have to rearrange my day and deliver on my promise.
I’ve never let a journalist down since that fateful day I described earlier, and I do my utmost to always deliver on a promise, because, after all you should never let a friend down.