Villing & Company

Role Playing: How the Economy Allows for Role Reversal by PR Practitioners

Many of us on the public relations side of marketing came into our profession from backgrounds in the newspaper business or via the study of journalism as undergraduates. Perhaps being a newspaper reporter was our original dream when we started out but, for a variety of reasons, we ended up on the other side of this relationship.

Working with reporters as we do, many of us have longed for the chance to switch places with them and write the story we are pitching — to control the content and say everything we want, exactly the way we want.

Well, courtesy of the sagging economy and growing staff reductions of newspaper and magazine reporters in general, we now have our wish.

Numerous times over the last few months, I’ve found myself pitching a newspaper or other periodical only to be informed that, because of mounting layoffs to reporters and writers, there’s little chance of an article ever seeing the light of day. Understandably, anyone who is still working at a newspaper also is wearing half-a-dozen other hats these days and can commit to little more than reporting on the urgent news of the day.

Fortunately for us, many newspapers and magazines are now offering to run a feature – based on our original pitch – if we submit it to them. OK. What’s the down side here? We love to write and this gives us a chance to finally play Clark Kent.

However, since impersonating a reporter also requires writing in the same objective style, one has to resist the urge to work the client’s name into the feature 50 times or make subjective claims like “the best in the area”. Of course that’s common sense but I have had editors preemptively tell me that the feature I’m submitting “would need to be a balanced story, not slanted toward any particular position.” That’s more than fair, really.

However, it’s also still necessary to promote a story that has news value and an interesting angle – just as if a reporter were being assigned to do the interview and write the story directly. Editors still must be convinced that the feature story being pitched will be of interest to their readers.

Essentially, I try to look at these feature-writing opportunities as I would a good blog post – give readers clear, relevant content without fluff or overt self-promotion. They’ll appreciate it. And so will the publication’s editor.

Who knows? If you play the reporter’s role well enough, you may be asked for an encore.

Filed Under: public relations

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