I remember the day where I had two very distinct requests for change on two separate articles. I said yes immediately to the first request and no (despite persistent calls) to the other. The reason for this was simple – the way the requests were communicated to me were worlds apart.
The request I said yes to immediately added value to the quality of the story – especially from the reader’s viewpoint. Meanwhile, the other request was borderline rude, and superficial. In no way, would the change requested benefit the reader.
(Full disclosure, we don’t make changes on Marketing magazine articles unless the change is factually inaccurate.)
As a journalist with a slew of other requests to tend to, this left a bad taste in my mouth. Coming from a PR background, I understand the difficulties of managing clients or team expectations. But there are many ways to ensure your “hit rate” with requests stays high. Here are some tips from an angst-y journalist.
Provide alternative statements or images which are better
So why else did I make the change for the first request? Well, the PR person explained clearly to me how certain statements could potentially be misleading to our readers and be better communicated. I agreed. There were even suggestions on how I could phrase certain statements – without a bias to benefit the client.
Like most journalists, we on the editorial team of Marketing are also stretched. So highlighting (yes with bold yellow or red on a word document) exactly what your issue with the article is, and what a better alternative might be, helps us save time. Otherwise, a clear phone conversation is fine as well.
When it comes to replacing images – this process is a lot simpler. As long as the image given is of higher quality (in terms of resolution and clarity), we are likely to say yes. Of course, it also needs to be relevant to the story.
The second request wanted a change to the image. To be fair, before the story went up, I did request for a photo from the PR folks to accompany the article – which they turned down. And then, later when they asked for an image change, I was annoyed. But, trying to be fair, I asked them to send it over anyway and told them if the sizing was right, we’d change it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Then came the tide of never-ending phone calls.
Don’t jump to conclusions – Find out why that editorial call was made
Rather than just telling us to make changes, maybe ask why we made a call? Maybe we felt using a certain image would drive more people to read the story.
Maybe the harsh reality is that we chose the angle because it would be fresher than the softer story you’d like us to tell.
Our reasons aren’t malicious. Ask and you will receive an explanation. That way, you can clearly communicate to your client why a certain editorial decision was made.
Also, try to trust our decisions. We speak to marketers every day, so we can tell all parties involved are under pressure. We will do our best to help, but we also have a duty to our readers, more so than your clients. Help us, help you.
Which brings me to my next point.
Your clients don’t pay us our salary
Spoiler alert – your clients are not paying our bills. And even if they were, we are journalists. We need to take the moral high ground and report what is right and fair to the industry.
When it comes to comments, we have to be fair to the brands which helped us make a story what it is. We don’t care if this means your competitor got more attention than you did. If they made better sense and statements, they deserve the glory.
Getting your PR folks to call us after the story is out and telling us the client is “unhappy” about a story does nothing for us. It does not communicate what the actual problem is nor does it clearly say how a particular story angle is affecting the organisation you are representing.
Everyone is bound to be unhappy about something, it is 2017. Trump is in power. Let’s move on.
Don’t burn bridges – relationships do matter
This seems like a no-brainer, but it really is so important how you come across. Don’t be condescending or raise your voice just because you did not get your way. It makes you seem like an irrational person and irrational people do less well when it comes to being credible.
If you’ve been dealing with the Marketing editorial team, you’d know we are quite a tight-knit bunch. So, we remember, and we talk. If you and your team have been difficult, we are likely to know about it and will be extra cautious around you.
And the opposite is also true. If you have gone out of your way to help any of us attain a quote or statement given the horribly tight deadlines we give you (sorry!), we are also more likely to help you out in a pinch.
There have been cases where relationships with PRs have been strained – but the best relationships are those which can recover from strain and pain. If you do your part, we promise to do ours.