Thinking like a journalist – a big part of your PR success in 2021

08 Apr 2021

Thinking like a journalist – a big part of your PR success in 2021

Let’s face it – no matter which side of the communications fence you find yourself on, these days are challenging and stressful. We are all asking ourselves the same question – how can communications agencies and media outlets achieve more for their clients and their readers, and how can we better prove our value in these unprecedented times?


I believe PR practitioners will already start to see positive results by approaching things in the way that a journalist would. As someone that has been working as a freelance journalist since the mid-’90s, I can attest to the positive reaction I have when I engage with a PR person who understands the insane deadlines and challenges in my radio newsroom.


This is exactly the approach we take in the HWB Newsroom every day.


Step one – get your message ready. Every client has a story to tell and a target audience they have in mind. Before you start sending out your press releases, make sure that the content is understandable for the market you are targeting. Is it easy to read, has it been fact-checked, did you fix the grammar, and does it answer the “who, what, where, when, why” questions?


Step two – know your target media. There is a long list of media titles to choose from, and each has its own unique content requirements. Are you approaching a trade magazine that prefers to have exclusive content, or is it a broadcaster that wants a 10-minute live interview on a subject? My best advice is to read as much as you can and listen to as many broadcasters as possible. It gives you a better understanding of what they need, and how you can give them exactly that.   


Step three – roll with the punches and monitor the news cycle. The news cycle never stops, and you need to know your place in it. The content you issue must make sense for that point in time, otherwise, I guarantee that editors will delete it.


Step four – news breaks. Most PR practitioners will tell you that it is often not a crisis that can kill your client’s business, but the fact that you did not prepare for it. This same preparation must go into news and breaking news. Are you ready for a breaking news development in your sector, do you know who your spokespeople are and what they will say? You have to think fast when news breaks, or it will leave you behind.


In closing. We are ultimately all in this together. PR practitioners and journalists are, at heart, storytellers. If you work like a journalist and act like a journalist – in the same way, that my team and I do every day – you will be happy with the results you achieve.


Get in touch with us, and let’s keep the conversation going.


  • Slabbert is the head of Newsroom at HWB Communications. His broadcast news career started back in 1995, and he has been a part of the HWB team since 2008.
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