A Professional Journalist’s Guide to Public Relations

Deborah Huso
May 9 · 4 min read
Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

Having worked for many years as a public relations consultant myself (until the 11 p.m. calls from newspaper reporters and consistently overdue payments of too many clients eventually inspired me to give up the ghost), I’m all too well aware of the hazards of the business, how the slightest misstep can blacklist you and your client…for life. And having worked both sides of this media table, I find myself not infrequently amazed at the number of untrained people out there calling themselves “publicists.” It is no wonder the profession has the reputation of being the purview of former cheerleaders who have consumed too many energy drinks.

But lest I offend the couple dozen public relations professionals who regularly and promptly supply me with expert sources in deadline pinches (you know who you are–God bless you!), let me say there are plenty of PR folks who know exactly what they’re doing–those who are able to walk the fine line between promoting their clients and understanding that journalists do not exist for the purpose of providing upbeat editorial coverage of hair tonic and exercise videos. Nor do they berate me by e-mail for failing to interview their company CEO when he failed to call before my deadline or tell me how unreasonable I am to expect them to locate the world’s foremost brain surgeon in two hours. Trust me, my editors would not understand or empathize if I attempted to explain it was 2 a.m. in Australia, and Dr. So-and-So just isn’t awake right now.

So for those of you who are scratching your heads and wondering just how to do this tricky job of PR, here are some tips:

Please note that the above rules apply in almost any media coverage situation with almost any journalist. If you abide by them (and can simultaneously accomplish the not especially easy task of getting your client to abide by them as well), you’ll find yourself outpacing your peers in the field by leaps and bounds. So next time you get a grumpy reporter on the phone, ask yourself (before you take offense), if you’ve followed these six rules. Chances are, you haven’t.

Deborah Huso is an award-winning journalist and founding creative enchantress at WWM, a niche communications firm specializing in the market less understood.