Ever chased a journalist? How many sell ins have you done this week? Chances are, the answers are yes and many, but that’s not how you would say it. A “sell in” is a pitch, and to “chase” means to follow up. While the general approaches and goals of PR are the same on both sides of the pond, the terminology is quite different. When scheduling a “sit down” (meeting) with someone, be sure to check your “diary” (calendar) first. What we call “hits” or “clips” are the more formal “pieces of coverage” in the Queen’s English, and a byline is known as a “comment piece.” A company’s revenue is referred to as “turnover” and where we’d call financials simply “numbers,” here they are “figures.” Though these phrases aren’t what I’m used to hearing, they’re all pretty logical terms (unlike when I learned that a “plaster” is actually a Band-Aid…) and it’s helpful to be able to talk to the talk across various countries—even other English speaking ones!
Beyond the vocab, there are a few other differences when it comes to PR and media relations in the UK and the US. England has a large variety of national papers (approximately 13) where the US of A has mainly regional papers, with a few national exceptions that are particularly competitive. It’s more of result of geography than anything else: compared to the UK, the United States is absolutely massive and there aren’t many national outlets, but there are loads of regional ones. To put it in perspective, the entire UK (including all of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) is roughly the size of the state of Oregon. The number of outlets aside, there is also some variation in what the media is interested in. There aren’t as many talk shows in Britain as there are in the US, and they are less likely to cover something purely consumer-facing with no strong news angle. While a hard news hook helps with securing coverage no matter where you are, it’s even more important to get in with the UK media. For this reason, surveys and research are used regularly—with some clients as often as 2 or 3 times a week.
Of course, everyone at Eulogy! has been very helpful in explaining all this to me and has been kind enough to not laugh directly at me when I ask what a particular word means. For the record, “jelly” refers to jell-o, a “biscuit” is actually a cookie, “chips” in the UK are French fries, and I still can’t figure out why Band-Aids are “plasters.”
Janice Min, Editorial Director of The Hollywood Reporter, gave a refreshing and candid interview recently in which she talked about the challenges of hiring staff in Los Angeles, her base of operations since 2010. Among the nuggets of wisdom, Min hit on a few keys to being not just a media relations expert, but a journalist’s ally. We live and breathe these every day – but sometimes it never hurts to state and be reminded of the obvious. Again. (And reporters will love us for it).
1) Be the person who solves problems. Not one who only points them out. Whether working with reporters on a story or counseling clients, PR professionals are in charge of delivering news – but sometimes reporters and clients have different ideas of what makes news news. Our job is to find a common understanding. As Min says “Someone is always looking for a problem to be solved, so be the person to solve the problem.” Engage in a dialogue with the media and clients, offer some ideas and alternative angles on what will make their information more newsworthy – then gather the proof points and assets needed to help build the story.
2) Close the loop. Min marveled at job candidates from whom she tried to elicit written critiques of the magazine as part of the interview process. Several never got back to her with ideas or even to let her know that they decided to pass on the project and the position. PR professionals must be cognizant of tying up loose ends with reporters. Let them know what happened with the interview request, scheduling, asset requests, etc. If you’ve promised to deliver someone for comment or to get more information, let them know if you’re not going to be able to get it to them by deadline and why. Preferably let them know before the deadline arrives. Don’t go radio silent. Keep them in the loop and close the loop.
3) Respect the deadline. Min commented that some job candidates, who did offer a critique of the magazine, didn’t send it to her by the agreed deadline. Reporters get fired if they don’t meet deadlines. PR professionals who regularly assist reporters by delivering relevant information and sources by deadline are invaluable. To help ensure deadlines are met, be clear about timing with clients and reporters: when putting a media opportunity in front of a client, always make clear what the reporter’s deadline is for receiving a response and let the client know that missing the deadline could mean missing the opportunity. Transparency and follow-through will go a long way to achieving a beautiful placement.
Do you have other tips for media relations and account management? Don’t be shy. Leave a comment.