One operating philosophy of PR Professionals is to develop good working relationships with reporters. To do this, the PR Professional is friendly and tries to “please” the reporters. Often time, this involves bending over backwards to make the reporter happy. The premise is simple. If the reporter “likes” the PR Professional, there is a higher chance that the reporter will write a better story, or in the event of a crisis, cut the PR Professional and his client some slack.
Personally, I think nothing can be further from the truth. To me, reporters and PR Professionals need each other and the basis of the relationship should be based on professionalism. Friendship is therefore a by-product and should not form the basis of the working relationship. I say this because reporters are professionals and their loyalty is towards their pay-masters. To do otherwise, compromises their professionalism.
I have come across many examples of PR Professionals who assume that they have developed a close friendship with the reporter and, based on this false sense of trust, divulge sensitive information to the reporter only to see it being used against his client. It is therefore my opinion that PR Professionals should focus on developing a professional working relationship with the reporter and not developing friendships.
Don’t get me wrong, I have many good friends who are reporters, but whenever I hang out with them, I always remember that we are all professionals and that our loyalties lie with different pay-masters.
(For more tips and discussion on crisis communications, visit my blog Crisis Communications in the Era of Social Media.)