5 Ways to Make the Most of an In-Person Briefing

FACE-TO-FACENobody talks on the telephone anymore. The rise of the Web and social media means that PR pros pitch more and more of their stories via digital channels. And that’s a shame.

Meeting reporters face-to-face can transform your media pitching efforts. It’s the difference between attending a block party for newly arrived journalists and simply mingling or going to a reporter’s home, knocking on the door and saying, “Welcome to the neighborhood.” Whom do you think gets an invite when the reporter decides to throw a party of his own?

Getting face time with reporters who cover your sector doesn’t ensure that they’ll give your story/company/campaign coverage—although that’s certainly a possibility—but it should go a long way in helping to cultivate the relationship and put your company on a short list of sources.

But, like any aspect of PR, the face-to-face meeting is an art form, and requires a deft touch. With that in mind, here are some tips on making the most of an in-person briefing, compliments of Meredith Pratt, a senior PR professional and formerly account manager at Stanton Communications Inc.

> Do your research. Read the publication before you meet with the editor. Look for specific sections where you feel your client and pitch may be a good fit and read the type of stories the publication focuses on.

> Keep it short. Reporters are taking time out of their schedules to meet. Do not belabor the meeting or the editor will regret agreeing to it. Stick to 20 or 30 minutes at most.

>  Go to them. Schedules are busier than ever. Time outside of the office is rare. Don’t ask reporters to come to you. Instead, go to them, whether that’s the publication’s office or somewhere convenient for the editor to meet. You’ve requested the meeting, not the editor, so it’s important to meet halfway.

> Ask questions. In-person briefings can be incredible PR education tools. It’s time with a reporter you may not otherwise receive. Use it wisely. Ask as many questions as you can about the publication’s deadlines, how and when the editor would like to receive information, what the editor is planning on covering and what interests she has.

> Act naturally. Above all, an in-person meeting with a reporter is a conversation. Do not bring a PowerPoint presentation or launch into why a product/pitch is the best she's  ever seen. Ask questions first and let them ask questions of you. Use the time you have to establish that rapport. It will only help you build a better relationship later.

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Follow Matthew Schwartz on Twitter: @mpsjourno1