Cats and dogs? Can PR pros and journalists be friends?

My pretty kitty UniI began my college career as a broadcast journalism major. For some reason, my parents (bless them) thought I was going to be the next Katie Couric . . .

I digress. I had a hardcore journalism professor my sophomore year whom I respect like you wouldn’t believe. She discussed her days as a TV reporter often, and mentioned how many journalists only ever hang out with other journalists. Her reasoning was namely about journalistic integrity (never being swayed by lobbyists, PR people, third parties/sharing stories) and I will stop there so as not to put incorrect words in her mouth. It’s been a while since I was in that class.

Fast-forward a few years – I met an editorial assistant at a Connecticut newspaper. We’ll call him Sam. Sam is super. Sam is nice, Sam is responsive, Sam is thoughtful, Sam does great work at his job . . . my colleagues and I love Sam. Sam and I established a business relationship when I began pitching him a client of mine. Over the next few weeks, I pitched a few more clients and eventually invited him to a large business tradeshow my firm does the publicity for. Sam came to the event, we met, and he was even friendlier in real life than on our e-mail correspondence.

Long story short, I consistently invite Sam to events we do the PR for (along with other journalists; I’m not playing favorites). I’ve even invited him out to a local (purely social) tweetup (this officially establishing a friend aspect to our relationship). All the while, Sam and I maintain a very professional and respectful relationship. I would consider him a journalist before I would consider him a friend because we met on a professional level.

Here are some of my pros and cons to having a friendship between a journo and a PR pro:

Pro

  • The journalist can speak to you as a friend, giving you honest and constructive feedback on your work ultimately (hopefully) helping you improve your PR skills.
  • Why do we have to dictate who we can and cannot be friends with? ( . . . ok, that’s kind of a weak “pro.”)

Con

  • If a PR pro ever abuses the relationship with the journo there are obvious penalties on both sides (and visa versa). You should never abuse any friend regardless of what profession you both are in.
  • Like any business relationship, getting too personal can make this blissful pairing go bad real quick! Were anyone to be angered, disrespected, snubbed in this relationship, a bridge would be burned, likely to go unrepaired potentially making an even deeper impact in other arenas as well.

My question for those PR pros and journalists out there is, how do you feel about the two professions crossing . . . becoming (gasp!) friends? Are you a PR pro who is friends with a journo or visa versa? Does it work? Do you “swear off” the “other team” as potential friends? Can’t we all just get along? Ok . . . let that last question lie.

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