A 10-step action plan for winning over reporters
This month, I have hit two career milestones. First, I’ve been a monthly contributor to Muck Rack Daily for a year. Thanks for the great support from the Sawhorse/Muck Rack team, and from you!
(Editor's Note: Congrats Julia! We love working with you!)
Second, I have recently had a major career change that I’m very excited about. For twelve posts, a line in my contributor bio read that I plan on doing big things (see below), and this is another step in that direction.
As with many PR career changes, I’m faced with a new frontier of media relations: new publications, new reporters, different pitches, and different writing styles.
Since reading and writing for the blog that helps foster journalist/PR pro relationships, I’ve decided to put everything that I’ve read and written to the test.
Here’s a 10-step action plan for winning over reporters.
1. Research, research, research. In the beginning, I’ll be spending a lot of time researching the publications and the staff, looking for tone, writing styles and patterns. Most importantly, I’ll be looking for the opportunity for both my clients and the reporters. As some of the smartest communication pros say, PR starts and ends with research.
2. Take advantage of Twitter. We all know journalists spend a lot of time on Twitter, but not many people use this source of information well. I’ll be following the reporters important to my client and looking at industry conversations. Twitter lists will help me compartmentalize and prioritize.
3. Send intro emails. Keeping these emails short and considering deadlines, I’ll be introducing myself as my client’s representative. Also in this note, I’ll show that I’ve already started doing #1 and #2 of this action plan. Fingers crossed that they’ll acknowledge…but we know that’s not always the case.
4. Follow what they’re writing. One of the best characteristics of a PR pro is being able to spot trends and the only way to do that is to stay current (the BEST characteristic is to be able to predict news trends, but few can do that). Using Twitter and some of the best monitoring tools available (including Muck Rack), I’ll have real-time updates on what my target reporters are publishing and posting. Sometimes, timing is everything.
5. Be tailored and selective. After my research and introductions, I’ll have a good idea of the specifics of the reporters’ work and interests. This gives me an advantage when pitching and having conversations. I won’t need to send mass pitches because they’ll be tailored to timing, readers and interests.
6. Become a source. There’s more to media relations than pitches and impressions. Becoming a trusted source is the ultimate goal that helps clients and journalists. Being honest and providing facts and information adds miles to credibility. At the same time…
7. Be an advisor to the client. The media is one of the best indicators of public sentiment and reaction. Being able to provide insight on the best approach media outreach and setting reasonable expectations makes the process easier for both PR pros and reporters. I’ll be able to do this once I know the media landscape.
8. Listen. There are a number of things journalists can do to help guide PR pros to the right ways to pitch or to reach them. I look forward to hearing feedback from reporters and collaborating with them on how to achieve mutual goals, but it all starts with listening.
9. Be cool. From my experience, working professionals have trouble balancing friendly and professional interaction. Even though we’re adversaries at times, it’s this balance that shapes the communication and relationship. In addition, being reasonable and level-headed helps.
10. Think like a reporter. This is one of the most challenging strategies, especially for PR pros who were not journalists beforehand. The question I’ll be asking most frequently is “Would I write about this?” and stepping into a lot of different shoes.
No quality relationship is developed overnight. In a few months, I’ll update you on how effective my strategy plan was, my success and my failure. In the meantime, if you have any other tips, please share them in the comments below!
Julia Sahin is a monthly contributor to Muck Rack and a recent graduate from the Master’s program in Public Relations and Corporate Communications at NYU. She is the first to conduct and publish academic research on the reputational effects of regulation on big banks. She plans on doing big things. All opinions should be seen as my own and do not reflect my employer’s.
Photo: Award via Shutterstock