Working with reporters can be scary, so we’ve put together a few rules to keep you on track.
#1 DON’T send a journalist several ideas at once. Options are fantastic, but think about the last time your colleague told you to pick the restaurant when you were already walking out for lunch. If instead your colleague asks, “How about x place?” You’d probably have had a stronger opinion and been more likely to jump at the suggestion or offer a counter-solution. Stories are the same way.
DO pitch journalists ideas, even if they are only marginally related to you or your company. Sure, sometimes you’ll get positive coverage on the exact topic or thing you want, but to keep a steady stream of mentions, you need to show a journalist that you’re part of a wider story.
#2 DO send press releases for big news. Journalists hate them, but they are great for putting out all the details of an important company story and giving responsibile parties credit for good work. Releases can also be beneficial for SEO after gaining coverage or posting it to newswires.
DON’T think that because you’ve sent a press release the work is done. In the same way custom cover letters make you more likely to get a job, a personalized message and persistence will go a long way in getting that release read and covered. Follow up, and if it’s not covered, don’t fret. If you have worked with the reporter before, you can often ask why, but know that even the best-fit stories sometimes don’t happen. Move on and keep up with the relationship.
#3 DO invite a journalist you’ve been pitching to coffee or an event. At the end of the day, media relations is all about relationships and putting a face to your name can be game-changing. Use this “date” to learn more about what the reporter is interested in covering in the future and spitball ideas on how you can help.
DON’T spend the whole time trying to buy their attention. Of course, journalists love free stuff like the rest of us, but buying a nice meal won’t get you their attention. In many cases, it’ll do the opposite and often they can’t accept the gesture anyway due to company ethics regulations. Earn attention by having interesting in their beat and work. Yes, we’re still talking about reporters here.
#4 If a journalist writes something incorrect or an article paints you in a bad light, DON’Tsubject line your email “ERROR MUST CORRECT NOW” or something along those lines. Taking a mean or snarky smart-alick tone isn’t necessary to make the change happen, and it may not even be that reporter’s fault.
DO write to the journalist/editor explaining the error, but keep it upbeat. Think of something more along the lines of “I was excited to see you’re interested in writing about x, but I wish we’d been in touch so I could help tell the whole story.” The difference? Most journalists will correct the error either way, but in the latter, you’ll build a relationship that could lead to good press in the future.
#5 You know the person in the office who always sends long boring emails? Journalists are people too, so DON’T be that guy. You may have to always open those dreaded emails, but a journalist doesn’t.
DO take lessons from social media. Stay short, make it actionable, and be timely.
There are a million reasons why a journalist may or may not pick up your story, and even when following all the rules, it sometimes won’t work out with a particular pitch. However, if you focus on relationship building more than that individual story, you’ll show your value and see the payoff.
This article was originally published with InTheCapital.