Writing, photography, content creation & communications

Posts tagged “public relations

The power of positivity

UNEXPECTEDLY finding ourselves in the world of PR and having to adopt a customer service attitude and wear a permanent smile was an exhausting chore at first.

Then about two years after “going to the dark side’’, we made a surprising realisation: forced positivity had actually made us more positive people.

Don’t get me wrong, comments like “the partner did it’’ and bet he jumped before he was pushed’’ still pepper news bulletins in our household, my handbag is clutched to my chest in public and I take a mental note of the exact time every time I see something odd in case the police need that information later. Healthy cynicism is important.

Too many bad things do happen everywhere around us, but the world really is a wonderful place filled with myriad interesting, generous and loving people.

Here’s some behaviours that make all the difference to your relationships whether you’re a journalist or PR:


I have always told my teenage son that he would never be noticed for his good manners and courtesy but he’d be memorable if he was ill-mannered and rude. I was wrong.

Well-mannered, respectful and charming, he has just started his first job. His recruitment manager told me he was chosen above dozens of others because of his charm and courtesy. In fact, he has also been offered jobs by the owner of a trendy restaurant and the GM of a five-star hotel purely on those attributes.


You may not answer the phone every time, but responding to phone, email and business-related social media messages promptly could mean the difference between a journalist or a PR making you their “go to’’ person and ringing your competitor.


Clients and media come to us because they know we will deliver what we promise, when we promise and how we promise.

Ending a conversation or email with Not a problem’’, ``Of course’’,  “Sure’’ or ``Will do’’ shows you are reliable, which will help cement your relationship and prospect of future work.

Coming up with solutions rather than problems will not only make you a more likeable person but boost your KPI achievements and outcomes.


I usually wrap up a media or a client correspondence with “Please let me know if there is anything else I can assist you with’’. Most of the time there is nothing further to do.

However sometimes, a few minutes later you might get an Actually, you wouldn’t have a picture of such-and-such, would you?’’ orI was going to ask next week, but while we’re emailing, could you write me a media release to go with my ad?’’. Win/win.

Making a quick phone call to inquire about an advertising package, sharing a social media post, putting a client forward for an interview with a journalist or shooting off a blurb for a client’s LinkedIn profile linking to your media release on their website is added value for them and kudos to you.


Don’t burn your bridges.

Remember when you switched radio stations jobs 15 years ago, only to discover the idiot producer you used to work with was now the executive producer?

The same happens in the PR world. Nightmare scenario: you phone a newsroom, only for an unmentionable from your past to answer the phone and you’ve got to convince her to carry your client’s story.


Think of smiling as a work out for your face.

Smiling when a difficult client or journalist is being prickly can actually feel satisfying. Besides, you know how they feel and would have done the same back in the day.

Do you agree? Can you add to this list?

  • Ellen and David Hill worked in traditional print media for 20 and 30 years respectively. In 2012 they unexpectedly found themselves “on the dark side” in PR. Today, they run a communications consultancy. When not crafting communications for high-end clients, they traipse the country in search of stories, usually in a grubby hatchback piled to the ceiling with gear, a lanky teenager and, sometimes, a pampered pet rabbit called Sophie.

What to do when the media comes to tea

By Ellen Hill

ONE of the most stressful yet rewarding tasks of my role as a communications consultant has been to design, organise and run media famils, which are particularly relevant to the tourism and hospitality industry, of which many of my clients are members.

Unlike a pollie doorstop, a police media conference or even sipping a cup of tea in a pensioner’s lounge room while they tell you the secret to long life, a familiarisation visit offers journalists a firsthand immersive experience of a business or product.

Whether it is an overnight stay in a new hotel, a spin in a new release sports car, a behind-the-scenes tour of a truck body workshop or a cellar door opening it is prudent to treat visiting media as non-financial (not free) VIP guests.

The pay-off is an expectation of editorial coverage (hopefully positive, but that is a topic for another day).

There’s plenty of excellent information out there about what journalist’s expect from a famil and how to host a successful event (one of the best is this podcast with Holly Galbraith and Emma Castle). Some PRs even specialise in visiting journalist programs (Michelle Grima of Australia PR, for example, is renowned for her awesome itineraries).

However, there’s (at least) two sides to any story, so let’s balance a journalist’s expectations with the perspective of a PR and/or a business:

No free rides

JOURNO: Although enjoyable, this is not a holiday for me. No one is paying me while I’m here. I have given up time with my family and other work commitments to pursue what I think is a worthy story. So please ensure there is an itinerary of relevant activities, meetings with staff who are authorised, articulate and knowledgeable but leave plenty of time for me to write up my notes, take photos and do some social media.

PR: This is not a holiday. If there is an observatory viewing at night or a dawn breakfast with the wildlife, I do expect you to be there. Staff have been seconded from other tasks (and paying customers) to assist you and the GM has blocked out his diary to meet you so please interview him.

Cost of a famil

JOURNO: The value of my story is far greater than the cost of a paid advertisement. Also, the cost of hosting me, my Plus One and even my teenage son, is negligible compared to the reach of my editorial story to thousands, if not millions of readers, viewers or listeners.

PR: We appreciate that. Really we do.

However, your complimentary experience costs us actual money (extra staff wages, food and beverages, the seat on the tour you’re not paying for and the bed we cannot sell at premium rates). We know you’re worth it though and welcome you.


JOURNO: Itineraries are not lucky door prizes. My pitch to an editor and what story I tell depend on it. They must be locked in well before arrival and include all relevant information like contact details, addresses, names of contacts, appointment times and social media hashtags. To avoid awkward situations, clarify what experiences are complimentary and what I am expected to pay for (eg: Lunch at own expense’’ orMassage for 1 x journalist, extra guests 20% discount’’).

PR: Itineraries take hours of time and effort negotiating between the client/employer and the journalist. Changing appointments or activities on a whim, not turning up or fronting up with an extra guest or dietary requirements without notice could cost the business money, damage our relationship and even affect the outcome of your story. However, I do understand that “things happen’’ so let me know what’s happening and I will work something out.

Plus ones

JOURNO: My Plus One keeps me company, is a model for my photos, takes my photos (conversely, they are the photographer and I am the model) and often doubles as my assistant.

PR: One double, queen or twin room is no big deal in the scheme of things. If the journo is happy then they write happy copy. Most businesses are even happy to feed and accommodate a younger child.

Do your own work

JOURNO: Please provide a press kit in hard and soft copy format. It should include a general media release, relevant fact sheets, graphs, case studies etc, social media hashtags and images (either links to digital collections or on USB sticks).

PR: If you attended the famil I expect you to write the story. High res images will be supplied in general media style, not to your specialist style for your niche publication.

Meals and gifts

JOURNO: Small unique, quirky or practical gifts worth up to $100 which remind me of your business and this fabulous famil are always welcome (eg: pens, classy business card holders, vouchers, umbrellas, smart phone covers).

Food and drink? Yes!

PR: A very nice working lunch or other appropriate refreshments will be supplied (unless the famil is a dining experience of course). Please do not hang around the buffet, ignore our chairman or GM when they come over for a chat or ask for a doggie bag.


JOURNO: When I ask for further information or images, please provide them promptly for best chance of your story being published.

When’s the story going to run? Don’t go there. Just don’t.

PR: I will send you a grateful “thank you’’ note the day after the famil inviting you to request further information and images. I will then email and phone regularly, then incessantly until you deliver the coverage you promised before enjoying the complimentary hospitality and privileges offered by my client.

Do you agree? Can you add to this list?

  • Ellen and David Hill worked in traditional print media for 20 and 30 years respectively. In 2012 they unexpectedly found themselves “on the dark side” in PR. Today, they run a communications consultancy. When not crafting communications for high-end clients, they traipse the country in search of stories, usually in a grubby hatchback piled to the ceiling with gear, a lanky teenager and, sometimes, a pampered pet rabbit called Sophie.

Positive surprises on “the dark side” in PR

FIVE years after unexpectedly finding ourselves “on the dark side’’ in PR, we have discovered it’s not that bad after all.

That’s possibly because the media landscape has shifted so much that “the dark side’’ is now filled with our own kind and it is more acceptable for the likes of us to juggle both worlds and continue to produce journalism as well as commercial content.

Here’s a few positive surprises we have discovered:


I’m ashamed to admit that most journalists have treated me with more pleasant professionalism than I gave to PR contacts while working solely in a newsroom.

They recognise the credibility of my information, my industry knowledge, calibre of clients, quality of the release and have come to expect editorial-style images as standard.


Well, kind of. We still write and shoot genuinely newsworthy and interesting stories and try very hard to ensure the stories we tell are fair and accurate. It’s just that someone else is paying us.

However, we cannot deny the bias and interests that arises with who is paying when we generate PR.


The publisher of a local industry magazine once complained that my articles’’ wereverbose, self-serving diatribes’’. Well yes, that’s what my clients pay me to do. She was bewildered when told it was actually her job to pick through my media releases for information and story angles of interest to her readers and get the other side of the story before running the piece she wanted. The publisher, who had never been a journalist, believed that media releases were ready-made stories for her to fill her magazine with.

Armed with knowledge of the current media landscape, we do often now write media releases as completed stories, leaving no unanswered questions for sparsely populated newsrooms and inexperienced tree-changers. They are regularly published without change.

Therefore, as PR, we can choose to submit a traditional media release or a completed story depending on the occasion yet are never obliged to provide balance.


In the past few years I have created new words and phrases, changed a client’s vocabulary, taken on several vastly different personas, made moral and political points and berated senior politicians under Parliamentary privilege – all under the guise of others.

Anyone who has met me knows that really I am more than a bit shy, not that verbally articulate and certainly not confrontational. So it is a privilege and a joy to step outside myself and be someone else when writing quotes for a media release or a speech.

Do you agree? Can you add to this list?

* Ellen and David Hill worked in traditional print media for 20 and 30 years respectively. In 2012 they unexpectedly found themselves “on the dark side” in PR. Today, they run a communications consultancy. When not crafting communications for high-end clients, they traipse the country in search of stories, usually in a grubby hatchback piled to the ceiling with gear, a lanky teenager and, sometimes, a pampered pet rabbit called Sophie.

From newsroom to PR: Welcome to “the dark side”

I always wanted to be a journalist. Never thought of being anything else. And for nearly 20 years I lived my dream, met my photojournalist husband in the newsroom and raised our son as a newshound. News and media was our life.

In those days, journos would climb the editorial ladder, go to the subs desk and become editors. Those who left media would work as press secretaries to politicians, head media teams in government departments and churn out media releases at charities and big companies. They were no longer journalists. They had “gone to the dark side’’.

PRs were dismissed outright while we scribes wrote stories from scratch, interviewed people face-to-face, attended court, police rounds, pollie doorstops, disasters and death knocks and rarely accepted submitted pictures.

So how on earth have we found ourselves on “the dark side’’?

We felt the winds of change in the mid-2000s and took voluntary redundancy in 2009. Among the first wave of the tide of redundancies which has swept through the traditional media, we didn’t realise it at the time but we were actually pioneers.

First, we wrote a coffee table book. Everyone loved it, no one bought it.

We tried our hand as travel writers. I even won an award. While we could definitely write stories and shoot images, we failed dismally at selling ourselves, pitching stories and reaching out to editors. We never had to while working for one media outlet.

We didn’t intend to go into PR. It just happened. A local organisation was restructuring and wanted to refocus their PR to communications driven by a journalist/photographer team. We would sniff out stories, shoot postcard-style images and organise travel itineraries for the occasional visiting journalist. Easy.

For the first six months I was, uncharacteristically, a sobbing, hyperventilating mess at least once a week, lost 10kg and worked until 1am most nights, desperately trying to learn the ropes and battle the shame of becoming a PR chic.

Over time, we did learn the formulae for valuing media outcomes, we built up a huge media contact list and made sure the organisation we contracted to gained media attention every single week for three years solid.

Today, we run a boutique communications consultancy offering writing skills, photography and media services. We’re also branching back into freelance travel stories, character profiles and history articles, and David has begun to explore his creativity and photographic art. We do all of that under the one banner – and we’re not the only ones.

These days, ex-journos prefer to be called communications consultants or content creators and often juggle editorial work with commercial clients. Readers, listeners and viewers now provide much of the news content. Bloggers and social influencers have emerged as the new media. Reality TV is the new reality. Media reports on media and new terms like content creator’’,multimedia’’, marcomms’’ andbrand journalism’’ have cropped up. Everyone is supposed to have a blog, social media platforms and be skilled across all mediums from writing, photography and video.

One thing I know for certain is that “the dark side’’ continues to evolve and really is many shades of grey.