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The impact on PR pros when a journalist exits an organization: Part II

Build relationship construction siteIn light of Jill Abramson’s exit from The New York Times, inVocus asked PR professionals to weigh in on how they’re affected when a journalist they have a relationship with leaves an outlet. Last week, we shared some of their experiences, many of which talked about the downside of a journalist’s exit. Since we received a number of responses, inVocus decided to run a second part, in which many respondents talk about the benefits of a journalist moving onto a new outlet.

Benjamin Doda, PR director of BDC

This scenario will only negatively impact PR pros who rely too much on the interpersonal side of things. A PR pro who relies on cozying up to journalists to do their job will ultimately have a very difficult time
rebuilding a new connection when that person ends up leaving. On the other hand, PR pros who build relationships with journalists through valuable information transactions will actually find it extremely easy to rebuild a new connection. It may be disappointing when a trusted contact leaves, but it’s definitely not hard for PR pros who don’t rely on schmoozing to bounce back.

Mark Scott, vice president of corporate communications at eVestment

I have always looked at reporters or editors moving on as great opportunities.

With the reporter or editor who is moving on, they may be moving to a publication you don’t currently have a strong relationship with or with which you’d like a stronger relationship. That gives you an opportunity to reach out to that person once they’re settled and let them know that you’re still standing by to help them with information, story ideas, etc. If they aren’t covering the same beat as they did when you worked with them before, it’s a great opportunity to ask for introductions to some of their new colleagues at the new media outlet. If a reporter trusts you, your response times, etc., they’ll be happy to introduce you to their new colleagues.

At the outlet they are leaving, it creates an opportunity for a new relationship. In many cases, a reporter leaving an organization will turn over their regular sources and PR contact to whomever is taking their position. If the new person is from a different beat, this gives you a great opportunity to introduce yourself. You can highlight how you helped out their predecessor and offer to do whatever you can to help get them up to speed on the new beat, get them some good stories, etc.

Media relations is all about that relationship and offering up good stories and good information. When someone moves on, I believe it offers you an opportunity to increase your coverage. You just have to make sure the reporter you had a relationship with knows you’re still there to help them at their new position, and to let the person replacing them know how well you worked with their predecessor and how you’re happy to help out as the new person gets up to speed.

Nick Brennan, vice president of Janice McCafferty PR

When a reporter or editor leaves a prominent outlet, it’s always a bit challenging, particularly if you’ve been working with them for quite some time. A great relationship goes a very long way in our industry, so having that fall apart can feel like a big blow. The important thing to remember is that you need to build a relationship with the new person, and you can’t bring any preconceived notions to the table based on your relationship with their predecessor.

Jeanne C. Zepp, director of public relations strategies, DPR Group

Having a connection with a journalist is a definite asset, especially when bringing on a new client. It’s a great feeling to know you can reach out and get a first big placement with relative ease. It allows the PR pro to make a great first impression. However, caution is necessary. Too much coverage by one publication or one journalist can make readers wonder why. When the objectivity of the information being reported comes into question, the PR pro is not advancing the client’s best interests.

Understanding this delicate balance prompts most PR pros to diversify and build multiple connections across a variety of outlets. I always try to cast a wide net when placing my clients. Beyond assuring that their messages reach diverse audiences, this approach keeps my relationship-building skills honed. Then, when key connections move on, as they inevitably do, the impact is contained, and I have the confidence and skills to build anew.

Roshanda E. Pratt, media messenger and marketing strategist of REP Communications Network

As a former television news producer turned media messenger and marketing strategist, I know when reporters or editors leave is par for the course. There is a high turnover, most often with reporters leaving for bigger markets or better opportunities. It can be tough when a person you have established connections with leaves and you have to rebuild trust again.

I have experienced this countless times. If I know in advance about the departure, I would ask the reporter to recommend someone in the newsroom who they likely feel I can connect with. When a new reporter comes to town, I send them a personal email welcoming and introducing myself. I also make a point to follow that person on social media as another way to engage.

Another thing to remember when it comes to being deserted: establish relationships with the entire newsroom and not one individual to avoid playing catch-up.

The bottom line: it’s all about networking. Make the effort and you will reap the benefits.

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