If you’re not competitive then you’re not only not a real journalist, you are probably not a very good journalist. As a public relations practitioner who wants to get the most for clients I would much prefer to deal with good journalists who appreciate the value of exclusives in owning a story or breaking news with it.
Because I was a former print journalist who later became a major market network reporter and producer, I absolutely understand the drive for exclusive stories on the part of reporters, especially journalists working for top news outlets. That drive can be used to the advantage of both the PR practitioner’s client and the journalist.
We bargain on a regular basis with all kinds of journalists for exclusive status or a situation where the news outlet gets special access to a source or a story. That goes for everything from a paper’s “of-the-record” arrangements to national TV or radio network news organizations or magazine shows. They want a competitive edge. We want the best story for a client to be told and granting exclusives give our clients the best chance at getting their story told in a more balanced or favorable way because the journalists are more likely to listen to our suggestions under the aegis of an exclusive bargain.
This is not to say we can manipulate stories or help a client get away with anything for an exclusive granted to a journalist. Those kinds of bargains demean both parties and eventually cause relationship and credibility problems. We can, however, get journalists to listen more acutely to our story when they know they are getting the advantages that an exclusive provides. Journalists like anyone else appreciate a perceived or real favor.
Granting an exclusive also provides a good investment in the credibility bank for everyone. And when managed properly it can develop a long-term, positive relationship for the journalist, the PR practitioner and certainly the client the practitioner represents. This happens whether we are trying to get the client in the news for a quality placement in the future or to get them out of the news when that client doesn’t deserve to be pilloried.