Six tips to ease a reporter’s workload
Congratulations! Your fabulous public relations strategy, precision targeting and customized pitching have been rewarded with a journalist requesting a client interview.
Are you going to cap all that hard work by giving that reporter excellent service – the kind of professionalism you afford to your clients, making him feel loved and pampered? Or will you provide sloppy coordination and communication that ensures he will never want to work with you again?
Once a journalist, producer or blogger says, “yes” to interviewing your experts, your service to them must be superb.
Your service is the cornerstone of your brand and reputation. It dictates whether you’ll develop a lasting relationship with that journalist. Make it stellar and reporters will keep coming back for new sources, knowing with confidence that you will deliver exactly what they need and on deadline. Make it difficult and reporters will ignore your pitches, or tell you “I’ll a pass,” when you send story ideas.
Since email is pretty much all reporters use these days to communicate with public relations pros, here are six tips for using email effectively and efficiently, and avoid loading journalists with more work. I’ve been following these rules religiously for two decades, and they truly make a difference.
1. Subject lines – a reporter’s guidepost
Sure, creative subject lines attract attention. Stick to that subject line, with slight alterations as you continue your email communications, so journalists know what to look for when searching for your updates and responses in their inboxes.
For example, if your pitch is “St. Patrick’s Day Party Ideas,” keep those words in your subject line throughout your communications:
Confirming: Interview w/ John Doe – St. Patrick’s Day Party Ideas
Photos You Requested – St. Patrick’s Day Party Ideas
Answers to your follow-up Qs – St. Patrick’s Day Party Ideas
Avoid meaningless subject lines such as “Following up.” Reporters are writing several stories daily. Don’t assume they’ll remember your client’s topic by spotting your name.
2. Say ‘no’ to many back & forths
Be efficient and mindful of their stuffed inbox. Give them all the information they’ll need in just one email.
Otherwise they might miss something.
3. Follow the KISS rule (Keep it Simple, Sweetie)
My rule of thumb is to write and organize an email to a reporter with the same care that you would give to writing a message to your CEO. That means:
Short and succinct, with proper grammar and spelling.
Use bullets. Who has time to read lengthy paragraphs?
Give them only what THEY need to know. Avoid chitchat.
Confirm how many images are needed for their stories and send only your best.
Pay attention to their requests for high-resolution photographs. One reporter called this her number one pet peeve – her photo size requirements, such as 300 dpi or 1500 pixels are often ignored. Double-check what you’re sending and save them time.
Don’t bombard them with extra stuff (aka work); if they need only one photo, send just one.
When providing a link to an online photo gallery, flag the best ones in your email.
Clearly label all image files, so they’re not guessing about your content or forcing them to send you another email.
Speaking of labels, use descriptive caption-style file names such as 01-CEO-John-Doe-Eating-IceCream-GroundHog-Party.jpg, 02-CEO-John-Doe-HeadShot.jpg.
4. Sew just one thread
Keep all your conversation in one email thread. It becomes their guide to your ongoing communications. Instead of hitting reply use the email forward option, so they can easily spot where their latest conversation with you left off.
5. Send calendar invites
Many reporters prefer receiving a meeting invitation from my personal online calendar. Ask if they want to be invited, so they get a reminder about their interview with your client. The more ways you make life simpler, the better.
Plus, you can see if they are paying attention when they accept the invitation, which ensures it appears on their calendar.
6. Don't forget...reminders are important, too
Send a reminder email or call the day before. Journalists are nearly always grateful when I email, and I’ll pretty much always get a reply. If I don’t get an email response, I’ll call. And if they still forget about the interview, at least you have a paper trail if your client asks.
Before clicking the send button, put yourself in a reporter’s shoes, and ask whether your email gives him exactly what he needs or makes more work. Eliminate their busy work and they won’t think twice about turning to you for their next source.
Michelle Damico is principal of Michelle Damico Communications, where she’s been providing strategic communications and excellent service to clients and journalists for more than 20 years. She’s walked in reporters’ shoes during a 15-year journalism career at Chicago radio stations WXRT, WBEZ and WGN. She invites emails at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo via Pixabay