As a former journalist, I know we always liked to think that we didn't need PR professionals for anything, and that they were more a bother than a help. But when we encountered someone who was good at her job, that person was worth her weight in gold.
Fact is, both sides could do a few things to make their own lives easier.
- Make sure you really understand who covers the types of stories that relate to your clients. Read their articles and posts, and get a sense of their voices. Don't pitch sources for stories they've already written, suggest interesting stories that aren't about your client, but that your client could potentially be a source for. Help them find good stories to tell.
- Get to know the reporters. Invite them for coffee - they may insist on paying for their own coffee, under their organizations' ethics rules, and that's fine. Just tell them you want to get to know them and the stories they like to write, so you can do your job better. If they're new to town or to the beat, offer to introduce them to some of the players and show them where things happen.
- Let them know what kinds of topics you can help provide sources for. Tell them if they're looking to speak to someone on those subjects, you can help them find the people to talk to. Even help connect them to someone who's not a client from time to time - they'll recognize you as a resource and appreciate the help. I know when PR folks helped me out, I'd do my best to ensure their topic got some kind of coverage, even if it was just a line in the calendar section.
- Find out what PR folks handle the industry or topic you cover. While you usually want to reach out to sources directly, there are some people who are simply easier to reach if you go through their spokespeople. If you recognize the value of the PR professional, that person is more likely to help you get to the person you need in a timely manner.
- If you get a decent pitch that isn't on your beat, tell the PR pro that and suggest the right reporter for the subject. You'll be helping both your colleague and the pitchmen if you do that, as they'll get to the right place faster.
- Just because something isn't a big story doesn't mean it's worthless. If you're finding a place to publicize a small item from the PR pro's company, maybe they'll come to you first next time there is something big. Be a resource when possible. Don't assign news value to something that lacks it, but don't ignore something just because it's only worth two lines instead of 750 words.
There's a simple way to sum up everything above: Be helpful and do your research, and you'll reap the rewards.