Charles Pugh talks about the relationship between PR pros and journalists

(courtesy of

Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh spoke to students at Eastern Michigan University last Tuesday at an EMU PRSSA sponsored event about the relationship between a PR practitioner and a journalist.

As a former FOX 2 journalist, Pugh shared some personal stories and experiences he had working with various public relations officials.

Pugh revealed that most journalists have a love/hate relationship with PR practitioners.

Pugh gave examples of public relations foibles when dealing with journalists.

  1. It’s a big no-no for PR people to conduct a news conference with no new information.  He said that it is important for PR practitioners to make sure their spokesperson doesn’t only read from a press release.  Re-hashing the press release will make for a boring press conference, and will make it harder to get news coverage in the future.
  2. You must help a journalist do their job.  If you are obviously keeping information without a valid reason, this will drive a journalist crazy.  One of the best ways of developing a quality relationship with a journalist is by being up front and honest about the flow of information.
  3. PR practitioners must be “people” persons.  If you are going into PR, you have to be able to communicate in a timely fashion.  It’s also important to know the medium that you are hoping to get coverage from.  Also, it’s of utmost importance to get to know the people who will be reporting on your organization.  Developing personalized relationships with these people by inviting them to lunch or other social events is an absolute must for PR workers.

Pugh also discussed some other interesting tips for PR practitioners who are trying to improve their relationships with members of the media.

  • Write the story!  Make a journalists job easier by giving them story suggestions and always come up with new stories for the media.
  • Don’t have people sitting around at events!  Get media members and others involved by playing games, running races, etc.
  • Never set up a spokesperson in front of a window!  Don’t distract reporters.
  • If your expert is boring or isn’t appealing in front of a camera or microphone, get someone else!  Monotone, stuttering or sweaty CEOs don’t give off a good impression to the public.
  • Use social media sites like YouTube to your advantage.
  • Be relevant!  Know your TV and radio personalities, their shows and their audiences.
  • Know how to create content for broadcasts.

The last thing that Pugh talked about ware some of the ethical issues that can pop up between a journalist and a PR practitioner.

I was a bit surprised to hear him talk about journalists taking small gifts.

Pugh said that in the “real world,” getting a meal or small gift from an organization can be a way that a PR practitioner can garner good will or be remembered by a journalist.

This goes against what many of us that are studying PR and journalism have learned in classes here at EMU.  Most professors have taught us that it is never okay as a PR practitioner to offer a gift or as a journalist to accept one.

Although Pugh said these material acts of kindness can be important, it’s essential never to cross the ethical lines of trying to buy off negative coverage or purchase coverage.

He said it best with this quote:

“When you are paying for lunches with journalists it’s important to remember that you are buying a relationship.  You aren’t paying for positive coverage!”

This is the type of advice that you can only get from a seasoned journalist that has been around the block a few times.

A big thank you to Charles Pugh for a wonderful, informative event that will help aspiring journalists and PR practitioners develop professional relationships in the future.

Sam Plymale

One response to “Charles Pugh talks about the relationship between PR pros and journalists

  1. Pingback: EMU PRSSA Year In Review | EMU PRSSA

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