Claims About the Value of Personal Media "Contacts"

Some PIOs claim that coverage of a story can be attributed to their personal contacts with particular writers and editors. In most cases, publicity just doesn't happen that way. All journalists do come to regard certain news sources as reliable and may be more likely to contact them for information. However, this relationship has nothing to do with personal cultivation; it comes about only after years of demonstrated competence by the PIO and the institution. Each science writer has a list of unreliable sources, too, especially those that push stories based on personal relationships, hype unimportant stories or offer slanted views.

A writer uses a story because it is newsworthy and interesting. When a PIO comes up with a novel idea or prepares particularly good material, it helps. But the writer's nod and the editor's nod will go to the best article, whether they know the PIO or not.

Obviously, a good story from a reliable source will impress an editor more than an equally good story from an unknown source or one that has been unreliable in the past.

If you as an individual and as a PIO succeed in getting broad coverage of a story, credit your communications skills, but also credit the writer's and the editor's judgement. They recognized a good story among the hundreds of others they received.

If you played a personal role in the selection at all, the chances are it was your reputation and the reputation of your institution built on a history of legitimate news releases, and not your "contacts."


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