The general public is interested in news. Reporters are interested in reporting interesting and compelling stories that will keep the public coming back for more. PR pros want to bring their client’s message before the public. Good media relations happen at the intersection of these three groups. The most important group here is the one which is silent, the general public. The key to building strong relationships with reporters and editors is to always keep in mind the interests of their readers.
When you send a useful news tip to a reporter, even if it does not advance the interest of a client, then you are also advancing the interests of the general public. When you help a reporter get credentials to a hot conference, then you are also advancing the interests of their readers. When you submit an item to Digg or Slashdot, then you are bringing that reporter’s work to the notice of a wider audience and therefor advancing the interests of the general public. It is not necessary to have 100% altruistic motives, building relationships is about open, honest mutual interest.
Cronyism happens when the public interest is forgotten. Cronyism happens when you become buddies with a reporter and they write about your clients because you are all members of the “cool kids club.” If you socialize with reporters, outside of industry events, if you all go to the same parties, are members of the same health club, and generally hang out together like you never got past high school, then you are promoting crony journalism. At some point the general public will catch on to what is going on and will be profoundly offended. The general public regards such arrangements as corrupt. Then what? You still have your relationship, but now story placement does not have anything like its previous value. Our whole professions is predicated upon the existence of an independent and credible press, and we must build relationships in a way the preserves and strengthens the institution of a free and independent press.