By: Anissa Gabbara
“I don’t write articles. I tell stories.” These are the words of a young and talented journalist Princess Gabbara, who just so happens to be my sister.
Princess graduated from Eastern Michigan University back in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Since graduating from college, she’s been on a roll with bylines in Ebony, Essence, Jet and Sesi magazine, and stories picked up by People.com and Huffingtonpost.com. She currently writes for the Lansing State Journal as the “Things-To-Do-Reporter.” I guess you can say she’s in her prime.
What’s interesting is that as close as we are as sisters, our career choices are known to sometimes bump heads—with her being a journalist, and me being an aspiring PR practitioner. It makes for interesting conversation from time to time, but it’s informational more than anything. We’re constantly learning and seeking advice from one another to better ourselves within our fields. With me still being a student, I learn a great deal from hearing about her experiences with PR practitioners, and it’s always interesting to hear things from her perspective as a journalist. To learn more, I sat down with my sister to gain a better understanding of how the relationship between a PR practitioner and a journalist should function. This is PR from a royal point of view:
Why is it important for PR practitioners to maintain good relationships with journalists and vice versa?
It’s very important for journalists and PR practitioners to maintain good relationships with each other because it benefits both parties in the long run. From a journalist’s perspective, I have kept in touch with many PR practitioners long after the first story we worked on and they continue to be great sources of information as they still pitch me interesting stories from time to time. I see it as a win-win because I get to tell a great story and they get an opportunity to promote their client and/or company.
How do you maintain good relationships with PR practitioners?
One of the best ways to maintain good relationships with PR practitioners is to keep in touch even when you’re not working on a story. Simply checking in and saying hello via email or Twitter can work wonders. However, it’s important to let this happen naturally. Of course, you may not “click” with every single publicist who comes your way, but it makes sense to build on what’s already there naturally.
What’s a good pitch to you?
A good pitch is something that excites me. So many publicists pitch their clients to be considered for an upcoming profile, but there are a million business owners, makeup artists and fitness experts out there. What’s unique about your client? Spell it out in your pitch. This is key! As journalists, we write hundreds of stories. We want to cover topics that interest us and our readers. Write your pitch so that we cannot say no.
When has a PR practitioner come to the rescue?
Not too long ago, I received an email from my editor asking me to put together a holiday gift guide featuring 40-plus items along with photos. I only had 10 or 11 days to pull this off! After narrowing down the list of items, I was responsible for communicating with more than 40 PR reps to secure a photo for every single gift featured in the guide. If not for the cooperation from the PR reps, the gift guide would not have been possible. Prompt responses were crucial since we were pushing up against a very tight deadline. All of the PR reps I worked with definitely came to the rescue during this short amount of time.
When writing a story, how heavily do you rely on a PR practitioner to get you what you need, when you need it?
Whenever I’m writing a new piece, I tend to communicate most with the publicist when scheduling the interview with their client, sending any follow-up questions, running the client’s quotes pass him or her for review and approval only if the publication requires it, and sharing the completed article when it goes live. To be honest, when PR practitioners are on top of their game, there isn’t the need for lots of emailing back and forth.
Many people believe that there is friction between journalists and PR practitioners. Is it true or is it just a myth?
I think it’s a bit exaggerated. Sure, journalists and PR practitioners work with different goals in mind, but I can honestly say that I have maintained positive relationships with most of the publicists I’ve worked with over the years. Of course, there are some who will ask to see the entire story before it runs. In that case, you simply explain that you are unable to do so, but it’s important for both the journalist and PR practitioner to be mindful of each other’s needs and to meet each other somewhere in the middle.
As a professional journalist, can you give any advice to PR practitioners regarding pitching journalists?
Shorter is better. Sometimes, I receive pitches that are two pages long. We live in a fast-paced world and we’re all doing a million things at any given time. Journalists need to be able to read through and understand the pitch in less than a minute. It’s a known fact that employers only spend 30 seconds reading a candidate’s resume to know whether they’re interested. Publicists should take that same approach when pitching journalists. Also, an attention-grabbing opener never hurts.
Anissa Gabbara is a senior at Eastern Michigan University studying public relations with a double minor in communications and marketing. She currently serves as the vice president of public relations on EMU PRSSA’s E-Board. She has an interest in celebrity PR and hopes to one day work with some of the biggest names and corporations in the entertainment world. She plans to hone her craft while becoming a valuable source of information to others. You can follow her on Twitter @AnissaGabbara.