“Give us a break.” Even the first time I heard it, I couldn’t believe it. I was still a journalist — the head of West Coast news operations for business, economics and labor relations for the Associated Press. The person who said it was the head of PR for a major savings and loan, and he was trying to convince a reporter to not do a negative story “because we’re trying really hard and just need a little more time.”
Subsequently, I was chatting with the other reporter — journalism is a small universe, and we’re all friends — and he brought up his exchange with the S&L executive. “Where did they get this guy?” he asked, incredulously. “Doesn’t he understand how it works?”
How it works is simple: Journalists don’t give breaks. They exist for a single purpose: To get recognition. That means being first or being most insightful. Being both is even better.
This is especially true in high-stakes PR — Crisis & Reputation Management. Sometimes there’s room to negotiate. But the only way the PR person is going to succeed is if he can guarantee that the journalist will get something even better in exchange.
The journalist controls the ink. The PR person controls access and insider insight. It’s a delicately choreographed dance — much like the wary circling of partisan politicians or a hungry predator and its protective prey. Both sides usually have biased perspectives of their chances for success, and neither wants to yield any more than absolutely necessary.
From a PR perspective, the best solution is when the journalist ends up with a better story than he started with, and the client — if not unscathed — is at least damaged less. Everybody goes home happy.
“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”
Gillott Communications is a Los Angeles-based public relations firm that specializes in high-stakes Crisis & Reputation Management. If you don’t already subscribe, please sign up for our blog Insights on High-Stakes PR. You can reach Roger Gillott directly at 310-826-8696.