Yes, we all know it’s true — journalists and PR pros don’t always get along.
While we strive to achieve healthy relationships with reporters, we sometimes miss the mark.
That doesn’t mean we can’t work to improve our media relations efforts to try to win over our friends in the journalistic world. The question is, what’s the best way to do this?
This Valentine’s Day, we went to the trenches to get some tips from those hardy souls who pitch the media on a regular basis to ask, “How can PR pros make reporters fall in love with them?”
Here are a few pieces of their advice.
You wouldn’t go into any important relationship without trying to learn a little about the person in advance, would you? Relationships with the media are no different.
“Take the time to get to know them! Reporters are people, too. Follow them on Twitter, read their work, get to know what topic(s) they cover,” says Kelsey Marklund, Marketing & Communications Coordinator, TELUS Spark (@kelseymarklund).
“Remember in high school when you would try to figure out what kind of music your crush liked so that you could have it playing in your car when you picked them up for the first date? The same principle applies to working with journalists,” says Drew Boehmker (@IfUSeekDrew), an account executive at Scooter Media. “You have to find out what tunes they listen to—in the form of what beats they cover, the type of stories they like, etc.—and respond accordingly if you want any chance at building a lasting relationship with them.”
If you were going to visit another country, you might want to brush up on the language first. The same thing goes for building a rapport with a journalist.
"The quickest way to a reporter's heart is to speak their love language,” says Alison Carville, Owner of Carville Communication Consulting (@alisoncarville). “The most dominant language is ‘words of affirmation,’ which could be interpreted to mean that if you’re representing a client or your company, reassure them that you’re knowledgeable about the subject and issue at hand. Be honest in your words, relevant to their audience, and concise."
When wooing a reporter, don’t rush into things with a pitch. Your first communication shouldn’t be about what they can do for you. If you focus on establishing the relationship first, you’ll get a lot further when you do need to pitch a story.
“Reach out to them whenever you see a story that you think was particularly well done or if you know of a source that would be great on their topic - bonus points if it's someone not in your organization,” advises Robyn Rudish-Laning, communications coordinator, SC Council on Competitiveness (@robyn_rl).
Or, as, Marklund puts it, “By building a relationship first, you’ve laid the groundwork for what may become a mutually beneficial relationship for years to come.”
“Building a relationship before you need to pitch and maintaining it in between pitches can go a long way in helping journalists remember you when they need an expert, a product or whatever you have to offer,” Rudish-Laning continued.
In any relationship, honesty counts.
Honesty creates trust, the stuff on which strong relationships are built.
“Reliability, respect and honesty are key to winning anyone’s heart – including reporters,” says Anjie Coplin, Communications professional in the healthcare industry (@acoplin). “Respect boundaries. Don’t go overboard with asking if reporters if they received your emails/calls about a pitch you sent them. If you annoy them, you leave a bad impression. And be honest. If you get questions from reporters on sensitive topics that your client or company is not ready to address publicly, be honest. Don’t ignore their emails or calls.”
To add one more to the list, pay attention to the basics. This means don’t send over a typo-ridden pitch. Check your work — and re-check it. Personalize it for the specific reporter you’re pitching. Customize it to his or her beat. Don’t send attachments.
And keep it brief. If they want more, they’ll ask. The pitch should be designed to pique their interest. By all means, have the supporting information ready to send upon request. Don’t leave them waiting days (or even hours) for it.
Follow these tips and your relationships with reporters will continue to blossom well beyond Valentine’s Day.
You'll find Michelle Messenger Garrett at the intersection of PR, content marketing and social media. As a public relations consultant, content creator, blogger, speaker and award-winning writer, Michelle’s articles and advice have been featured in Entrepreneur, Muck Rack, Ragan’s PR Daily, Meltwater, Spin Sucks, CIO, Upwork, Freelancers Union, SheKnows, CommProBiz and others. She was named a Top 100 PR Influencer by Onalytica. Michelle was also recently appointed to the board of Women in PR USA.
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