Times, they are changing. With so many more channels to get stories out, journalists are more time pressed than ever. Gone are the days of just writing copy for the paper or producing a package for the 10 O’Clock News on ITV or the BBC. There are so many other constant demands on time around producing content for digital channels and being active on social media.
This potentially cuts down available time for journalists or producers to meet face to face. And yet this is fundamentally important to building a relationship with media contacts and something that I have always strongly believed in and has delivered for me in spades in terms of generating media impact. Yes emails can help develop a rapport as can direct messaging on twitter or even, dare I say it, phoning people. But there is something so useful about having that one to one contact over a cuppa or bite to eat.
At a number of conferences and workshops that I have been to over the last few years the common theme emerging from time-pressed journalists is that PR’s are only really left with email as the best way to develop contacts. Yes email as a communication tool is important and if a press officer can supply great stories or release that is a good foundation for being seen as a reliable source.
But, and it’s a big but, I still think that it’s worth investing the time and effort to carve out a relationship with journalists that is a deeper level of human interaction. You will need to go the extra mile and be patient: going to where the journalist is based (for freelancers it could be a local cafe not far from where they are based) and you’ll need a hook to get them interested rather than saying ‘wouldn’t-it-be-nice-to-chat’. To entice people into meeting there needs to be a reason – for staffers they have to justify the time to a boss and for freelancers time equals money.
And this is where the research bit matters. Read, watch or listen to what they have produced, check out profiles on Linked-in; all very helpful to build a rapport and keep the conversation flowing and show that you have done your homework.
For any meeting to work and the flowering of a good working relationship there needs to be mutual benefits for both parties. For the journalist they need to come away from that meeting thinking that you know your stuff and have a good grasp of the media outlet they work for. And all importantly, that you have given them a good story. For you as the PR you want to be inked into their contact book and for the journalist to seek out your emails amongst the hundreds of press releases they get everything week.
The one health warning, and it’s worth remembering, getting to know a journalist well is not going to stop them writing or producing packages that criticise your organisation. That is a fact of life but this should never deter from opening open lines of conversation and meetings across all of the media.
So do the research, identify the journalists that you want to target and invest time and effort in getting those face to face conversations up and running.