When a reporter starts calling you a flack, you might want to rethink your approach. But even before that cringe-worthy moment, there are adjustments you can make to your media relations strategy – and they’re as basic as the core tenets of Public Relations. Some things never change for a reason. At the PR News Media Relations Conference and PR Boot Camp last week at the National Press Club, attendees were treated to dozens of great tips from reporters and editors who didn’t pull the punch when it comes to the thorny and annoying approaches they deal with every week. While they appreciate the fine work of PR professionals, they used the podium to remind the audience of these tried and true methods of relating to the media:
1. To improve your chances of a reporter covering a story you pitch, consider approaching them on Mondays, weekends and holidays when there’s more of a news hole to fill. In other words, scratch their back, they’ll scratch yours.
2. Call a journalist. Assuming your phone still works, some reporters prefer to talk to a PR person rather than get pitched by email. Many reporters will admit it’s harder to say no to a PR person over the phone.
3. When emailing a journalist about a story idea, use her name in the salutation and reference her media brand. Cookie-cutter pitches are turnoffs.
4. Compliment a journalist on a recent article he wrote – flattery never hurts. But don’t sugarcoat your complement, either; reporters have a great sense of smelly PR pitches.
5. Take the long view of your relationship with a reporter. Don’t expect coverage right away; keep in touch regularly and when the time and news is right, you’ll get treated fairly by the press.
6. If the reporter doesn’t have a radio show, don’t pitch a story for their non-existent radio program; if he doesn’t cover the food industry, don’t pitch a product about yogurt. Reporters need to do their homework before covering a story, so PR people should do the same.
7. If they blog, comment on their blog (in the actual comments section). Same with an article in which you can comment online. Be part of the conversation.
8. Create event opportunities in which you bring your key executives and a select group of media together. Send them a personal invitation and make sure there are refreshments at the event. Simple stuff: reporters like to be invited to events, they like to get out of the office and they don’t mind getting fed.
9. Despite email, social media, texting and all other mediums in which you don’t have to actually connect in person, nothing beats a face-to-face meeting with the press. If you can get to Yes with a reporter for a breakfast, lunch or an after-work coffee or drink – and assuming you have good table manners – you are guaranteed a better connection with that reporter. But you are not guaranteed coverage.
Do you have some tips to add to this list? Please comment and be part of the conversation.
On Twitter: @dianeschwartz