The Care and Feeding of Reporters: A Guide For PR Professionals Part 3

Bonding with journalists is a critical skill for anyone in public relations, but how do you ensure success? That’s what you’ll learn here in my third and final (for now) post on the subject. We’ve talked about what journalists are looking for and how to find reporters, but once you do and you’ve piqued their interest, there is some important information to keep in mind.

Planning Your Journalist Date

Meeting with a journalist has plenty of similarities to any other informational or casual meeting you’d have with potential clients or others with whom you have informal business connections. Coffee is a natural option for meeting up, or lunch if you think it will go long or you want to make a bigger impression on them.

With the way the news cycle works, day meetings can be tricky for some reporters, and happy hours are a perennial aspect of a journalist’s life, especially for reporters on the younger end of the scale or who operate in a city with public transportation options (like Washington, D.C.) It should be obvious that getting drunk is a dumb mistake, but one or two drinks can be a good social lubricant. That’s a judgment call.

Journalists will most likely want to pay for themselves for ethical reasons. That said, it’s always good to at least offer to pay and be prepared to follow through on it. Don’t expect any kind of quid pro quo from it, and don’t insist if they say no, but there’s no harm in offering to buy them a cup of coffee.

I refer to a ‘journalist date’ because there are elements of setting up the meetup similar to arranging a first date. For instance, you should suggest a place and time, likely near wherever they may be that day. At the same time, you should be open to going wherever they might suggest, and accommodating them, as it was probably your idea to meet up in the first place. And it should be a friendly meeting the first time, without a strict agenda or minutes being taken.

That said, it is definitely not a date and you should have a point you want to make about why they should cover your clients or why they should want to reach out to you for potential story ideas and sources. If you work in PR, you probably feel like this is very obvious and easy to do, but after years as a full-time reporter, I can categorically state that plenty of people in PR either don’t know what appropriate behavior looks like or think that it doesn’t apply to them. There are undoubtedly some reporters who didn’t get the memo either, but this is about what PR professionals should be thinking about.

Good Night and Good Luck

Remember that the main point of this kind of meeting is to establish a relationship with a reporter. Over time you will build up that relationship with plenty of journalists in all kinds of media. Each one is helpful for your work in PR, not only on the individual level, but because of the connections a reporter can offer to someone in PR they trust and like. Journalists mingle with each other in all kinds of settings, and they gossip. A lot. It makes sense if you think about it since their whole job is telling stories after all. But, it means that a good reputation with a couple of reporters can make it a lot easier to get responses from other journalists, who will start off with a good opinion of you. Reporters might even introduce you to others in the media you may want to talk to, assuming it’s not a direct competitor at least.

With these three posts, I’ve hit a lot of the highlights of creating a relationship with a reporter. There are plenty of aspects I didn’t cover, but with this information, you should be able to start off strong. If you have questions or would be interested in seeing me cover another angle of how the worlds of journalism and PR intersect, let me know via one of the options below.