Rules of Engagement – Working with Journalists
We all want our stories to be seen in the media – we pitch journalists before a product launch, shoot out a press release, tweet a campaign tease, all in the hope of scoring great articles.
Sound familiar? Except for the fact that despite your best efforts, your story never makes it to the news page.
Dealing with journalists can be tricky. As well as being extremely busy, they can be abrupt and make you feel like you’re just nothing more than an interruption. The more you try and convince them that you have a story that they want, it can all go wrong if you catch them at an inopportune time.
How can you expect to pitch someone who doesn’t know you or your product, and assume that the person will understand the story and details in a matter of days?
The media consist of reporters, editorial writers, editors, bloggers, photographers, producers, etc. However, people are often fixated on the media outlet names than on relationships. Relationships are key in our daily lives. For PR professionals like us, building relationships with the media is our bread and butter. Positive inclusions in a newspaper, magazine or on a key industry blog can put our clients’ name on the map, as well as increase their revenue.
Generating positive coverage for your client isn’t about blasting mass emails, press releases or irrelevant pitches. You should also work on becoming an expert reference source that they can come to – and to make this happen, you need to build and nurture a strong relationship with the media.
Some pointers to get you thinking:
Rules of Engagement
1. Ready, set, aim: Read up on what the journalist (you’re targeting) has written to find out what he or she covers, and what is interesting to the their audience. Don’t waste time pitching a topic that’s not related to his scope of reporting.
2. Know your product: Before you start reaching out, become an expert source of your client/product and the issues you’ll be discussing. The more knowledgeable you are, the better your chances of establishing strong connections with journalists.
3. Stay on point: When you make that call to the journalist, please ask politely if he/she has a minute to talk (remember journalists are always working against the clock). And it’s only polite! If they do have time, explain why your client may be of interest to them, quickly and succinctly – get to the point and don’t beat around the bush.
4. Dig deeper: Get to know your journalists. Keep a file with notes about their specific subject areas, reporting, and preferences. What kind of information are they looking for – expert opinion, news tips, story ideas? Do they prefer press releases, or are they looking for exclusives? Do they prefer face-to-face meetings, e-mail or phone? What are their deadline pressures?
5. Be helpful: Call with a story tip you’ve heard about that may be of interest to a specific journalist, even if it’s not about your client. Suggest story angles they may not have considered. Send an interesting link.
6. Stand up and deliver: When a journalist contacts you for information or for an interview with your client, do your best to get them what they need and quickly. Failing to respond to a journalist on a deadline is inexcusable.
7. Spread the net: Don’t just rely on the same pool of journalists. Scan through the media, and be on the lookout for new journalists to contact by tracking the media coverage and new publications that are related to your clients and/or industry.
8. Don’t be a stalker: Once you’ve established that a particular journalist would be interested in news or information about your client, be persistent but not intrusive. Follow up once a week, and do so politely. Be prepared to take no for an answer. Sometimes, it’s not about you or your client, but how the story fits in the overall scheme of things – perhaps another story was big enough to take priority. It happens.
Taking these small steps to develop relationships with journalists will go a long way in understanding them better, and this may just translate into that extra media coverage you’ve been gunning for. The most important criteria you need to remember is to feel comfortable with both the person you will have contact with, and the publication he or she represents.
By Irene Gomez, Chief Inspiration Officer @ Corporate Media Services