The Care and Feeding of Reporters: A Guide For PR Professionals Part 2
Welcome back to my guide for people in public relations who want to get connected with journalists as part of their jobs. Last time, I wrote about why people in PR need to build relationships with journalists, and why journalists would want to talk to people in PR. I explained the kinds of things reporters are looking for, and how to make sure you have it ready for them. This time, I’ll explain how you can actually find a reporter, setting yourself up for success right away with your interactions with them even before you ever shake hands.
Figuring out which reporters you actually want to talk to is, naturally, step one. That’s fairly straightforward at its core. Look for who’s written about your client, their rivals, or their industry in general in the past. That said, the hunt can be a bit of a slog sometimes, as these days most reporters cover a wide variety of topics, or may write for a host of different publications. And that’s before having to figure factors like geography and potential editorial slant in the bargain. With practice, it gets easier, and these lists of reporters, once made, can be useful for a long time, even if it feels tedious to make the lists.
Today, social media is the first place to go to look for ways of connecting with people, and reporters are no different. In fact, tweeting them, or sending a LinkedIn note can be a perfect introduction, as those are places reporters are looking anyway, for stories and sources. Plus, it’s often a much more immediate way to get replies and plan for a more extended conversation. Social media is also really useful for discovering who’s reported on topics connected to your client, or even who is on the hunt for exactly the kind of quote your client can provide.
Friends of Friends
LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media channels are also a great way to discover that you already have a connection of some kind with the reporters you want to talk to. Your friends may be their friends, or former colleagues of yours might have worked with reporters before. Your connections can recommend approaches or, ideally, make an introduction and put in a good word. This is more helpful than you might think at first. People in PR and people who work in the media are all, by dint of their jobs, communicators and connectors. You getting an introduction makes it more likely you’ll do an introduction for them in turn, sometimes boosting your credibility in both the PR and journalism world.
Journalists often attend a lot of events. Whether it’s to cover what happens, meet up with a source, or just see who’s around that might be worth talking to, any conference, professional networking happy hour, or public convention will likely have some reporters around. An event connected to your client’s industry, or one they are actually attending, make for obvious places to spot reporters. However it doesn’t have to be a guessing game since many times you can find RSVP lists online, talk to event organizers, or even see if the reporter is sharing their plans on Twitter.
Sometimes, the shortest distance between two points really is a straight line. Emails, text messages and phone calls are the most obvious ways to effectively connect with a reporter. You can convey a lot of details quickly and arrange a future conversation or meeting on the spot. The problem is that reporters get a huge number of unsolicited emails every day and it can be difficult to craft a pitch they will respond to quickly, let alone a casual meeting. This is where the introduction from a mutual friend can be a huge help. But, as email is so essential for everything in business these days, it’s always a good idea to include it as a way of reaching out, even if it’s just in addition to another option. As for phone calls, reporters may not answer unless you catch them at the right moment, although calling, as a follow up to an email is often helpful if you’re sure they want to respond and just haven’t found the time yet. Text messages can mitigate the issue of timing, but most office phones don’t have text capability and if you already have their personal phone number you may as well call.
Getting in touch with reporters with your perfect story idea, or as a way to cultivate a future relationship is a great idea. And, as you can see, there are a lot of paths to do so. There’s no one right way for all reporters, you may have to get creative and be persistent, but your client will be thrilled when you can say that their new announcement can get into a publication after you casually message your pro reporter pal. Next time, I’ll explain how to plan the perfect date with a reporter, and how to parse the special language of a conversation with a journalist.