“The relationships we have with people are extremely important to success on and off the job”
-Zig Ziglar/ Author and motivational speaker
I recently received a thank you note from a reporter who will remain anonymous. It read, “Thanks for all you do, Frank. Know that you make a difference.”
If you need a moment to let this sink in, I’ll understand.
Generally, there’s always been a love/ hate relationship between reporters and communications professionals, despite the fact we’re dependent on each other. Reporters need credible sources and story ideas, while PR pros need the media to help them share information about our clients.
The Road to ‘Making a Difference’
Last year I recommended my client submit answers to a reporter’s inquiry which focused on “top investing tips for 2015.” The reporter appreciated our attention to his deadline, thoughtful answers, and our astute understanding of his audience. Over time I developed the relationship to a point where he would contact me directly for help providing commentary about investing topics. Recently, the same reporter found himself in a bind and a panic. He reached out to me desperate for a source for a feature story. My client quickly submitted answers, already with the knowledge of the audience and the reporter’s style. The reporter couldn’t have been more appreciative and felt compelled to send me the personalized 12-word thank you note.
His actions were certainly unexpected but it was a reflection of good, sound media relations.
Why They Don’t Call After a First Date?
What can we, as pr pros, do to ensure we remain valuable to journalists? For starters, think of your relationship with journalists as a long-term investment. It’s like dating and learning to trust each other and be trustworthy. If the date goes well, odds are there’ll be a second and a third. And, that’s good for you.
At Water and Wall Group, we encourage our team to engage face time with reporters. It’s the simple principle of connecting on a more personal level to strengthen that relationship. The more a reporter gets to know you, chances are they will call for help with stories. They’ll also be more inclined to trust you with story ideas.
You must also understand the journalist’s story requirements. Do they love data? Do they look for in-depth quotes as opposed to pithy? Are they a fan of quick calls or insightful, deep-in-the-weeds interviews? Knowing a journalist’s style will help you better match them to a source.
Let me break it down. When pitching a reporter, you should already know the following:
• Story angle
• Audience and distribution
• Publication schedule — does the reporter write for a daily, weekly or a monthly publication?
• The best time to contact –there is no faster way to a kill a story than calling a reporter on deadline
Bottom line, conduct your due diligence. Reporters will see that you did your homework and that will pay dividends down the road.
Another recommendation to building strong media relationships is providing valuable content on a regular basis. It’s not just about sending out a press release. We have to become proactive strategists and identify a trend or lesson that can be of value to your targeted audience – then contact a journalist with that same target audience.
For example, news of a pending market correction has been a hot topic – not if, but when. Think about positioning a client to comment on how to protect investor portfolios from a market correction. This will be far more valuable to a journalist than another product release – even if the product helps hedge a pending correction. Remember, reporters are in the business of telling good, timely stories, not promoting our clients.
Journalists today are besieged with pitches from PR pros. And in a crowded, competitive industry, it’s becoming more and more difficult to stand out. To be a trustworthy connector, we must be creative with solid, proactive content. The more you know about the journalist, the better.
They may even thank you for it.