It seems like such a simple, everyday thing, but talking to reporters can be one of the toughest things you do in your PR career. Really talking to them, that is. You can call up any newsroom and eventually get a number of exhausted journalists on the line. But to really have a conversation can take some finesse.
So instead of focusing on what you should do, it may be easier to look at things you should NOT do when attempting to establish a relationship with reporters. By learning these, you should have a better idea of the effort you must put forth to make it work.
One of the quickest ways to get a journalist (and most likely all journalists in your area) to hate your guts is to insist you’re owed something. You deserve to be printed in tomorrow’s paper, or you demand an answer to why that press release you sent out wasn’t good enough. This pushiness will not only drive them away but can also damage your reputation around town – most reporters know people at every paper.
Look, you’re not “owed” anything. You’re one of a zillion other businesses and people vying for this particular journalist and publication’s attention. You’re not a special snowflake. Being friendly and accommodating goes a lot farther than you think.
You want to get your hot new press release in the papers. However, all the reporter at the local newspaper wants is a little help. Maybe an idea for a story here, a little help with sources there, that kind of thing. But you just want your press release published and nothing else. Congrats, you chances just went down to the “zero” range.
Reporters are extremely busy people. If you’re willing to extend a hand and make their lives easier, they’re going to take notice. Scratch each other’s backs so to speak and you’re more likely to see some coverage.
Contact Them with Non-News
You’d be surprised how much useless information crosses the desk of the average journalist. Well, I guess now it crosses their email instead of their desk, but same difference. People and companies send press releases all the time, and for the most part they’re completely inappropriate to print in a newspaper or magazine.
Really, does anyone really want to read about someone moving from “lower middle management” to “upper middle management” at your company? Would you read that if you saw it in the paper? Reporters want something that’s sure to rope people in, a human interest story. Someone moving up from mailboy to CEO is a great story – the above example is not. If you really want to drive journalists crazy, send a boatload of silly, unimportant stories to them and see what happens.
What would you add to the list of things not to do when contacting reporters?
This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download your free copy of the Beginner’s Guide to Writing Powerful Press Releases here: http://www.ereleases.com/insider/beginnersguide.html