It’s easy to over-glamorize the life of a reporter. We see them on TV and read their bylines. If you’ve worked in the media or seen it up close, you know there’s nothing glamorous about their day-to-day routine, work schedule or salary. But, at least they’re able to get out of the newsroom and cover stories.
What about a reporter’s fellow journalists whose duties require them to stay within the four walls of the newsroom? Assignment managers, producers, editors and news directors make editorial calls from the newsroom. You won’t see these crucial cogs in the newsgathering operation unless you go to them. That means getting into a newsroom.
After not taking the time to do it in years, I recently set aside a few days to visit the newsrooms of media outlets that I often serve. I was struck by the heartfelt gratitude of those who, in their own words, are “trapped” in the newsroom and never see anybody from the outside world. And I was reminded of some crucial bits of information.
They want to see you – An assignment manager in a TV newsroom welcomes the personal touch.
“Meeting face to face periodically with PR folks does wonders to develop and improve working relationships… It helps to establish a personal connection and understand their personality vs. just communicating with someone behind a computer or a telephone.”
A relationship built on trust – You call, email and tweet these people all the time, right? You know what name to mention and when to ask for them. A TV news executive producer tells me all those other means of communication don’t foster trust the way a personal visit can.
“…[I]t’s nice to get that interaction and actually be able to put a face with a name. Having that face-to-face connection, I believe, adds to the trust and helps the relationship grow between the media and those who the media deals with.
A peek behind the curtain – Beyond building trust, your visit will also yield insights to take back to the office. You can expect to see and hear what makes an outlet tick. An executive producer at another station tells me meet-and-greets are great opportunities to talk coverage nuts and bolts.
“We can explain what kind of stories we’re willing to cover, how press releases are most effective … media relations can talk about upcoming events we might be interested in and talk about how they could help weigh in on future stories/what experts [are] available.”
Low-key now, high-yield later – You’re probably asking yourself what you should take with you when you visit a newsroom. As you were reading this, you identified the perfect pitch to make in person. I recommend going in empty handed. Don’t pitch. You’re a guest in their house. As a TV anchor candidly explains, your time there will yield results later when your name comes back up.
“When I see a name I recognize (whether from Twitter banter, a phone call or a stop in the newsroom), I’m definitely more inclined to read what they’re sending and make an effort to respond. I can’t always guarantee coverage, but I can extend the same courtesy of a response that I expect when reaching out for news stories.”
Start with your best contact in a newsroom. Ask for a good time to swing by for a meet-and-greet. Don’t make a pitch or hand out a news release. Go in with a stack of business cards and no agenda…other than making a contact and building trust. Of course, be ready for that peek behind the curtain…which is always fun. But, remember, you’re there to showcase how you can help them as they serve their audience.
Have you visited newsrooms? What reactions did you get? How have those visits affected your rapport with the journalists who work there?
Adam Myrick is the media relations specialist at BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina. Follow Adam on Twitter: @adam_myrick