How to build relationships with reporters

reporter, relationshipReporters are people, just like you and me. They are serious about their jobs, want to do good work and enjoy hearing compliments.

If you want to make a connection with a reporter, remember that.

Reporters often get a bad rap and are criticized for being inaccurate or ruthless. What some people see as biased reporting can be simply telling both sides of the story.

By and large, the reporters I’ve worked with as a journalist and as a PR professional have been hard workers who want to make a difference. They take pride in their jobs – and they want to get the facts straight.

Do your homework

Just as reporters need to do their homework, if you want to build a long-term relationship with a reporter, do your research. Read a reporter’s stories and understand what they cover and what they don’t. A huge complaints among journalists is that people who contact them have no clue what they do.

Invest time in commenting and/or sharing their stories on social media or send a personal email if you’ve admired their writing. Be authentic and honest. Don’t randomly pick a story and say, “Nice job.” Mention a quote that you genuinely like or an interesting statistic.

Look for common interests between you and the reporter. Did you go to the same school? Do you know many of the same people on LinkedIn? Did you work with one of their colleagues? There are many ways to draw connections.

How media relations works

I contacted a reporter at a trade magazine I wanted to pitch after reading her stories and researching her bio. Like me,  she had been a daily newspaper reporter. It was clear from the way she wrote she had worked for a paper – her writing was clean and concise, despite dealing with a complicated topic.

I sent her an email complimenting her writing, described the business where I worked and offered our experts as sources for stories. Within hours, I got a friendly response. Two weeks later, she interviewed one of our executives for two stories, and we stayed in touch after she left the magazine.

While there’s no guarantee a reporter will cover what you’re offering – it must be newsworthy and be of value to their audience – there’s no downside to creating good relationships. You never know where the reporter – or you – will work next and when that connection may benefit you both.

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PR Tip

How to Craft a Successful TV pitch

Always remember that, when pitching the media, it’s important to consider what they want.

And what does TV news want most of all? Visuals, and lots of them.

Today’s audiences like action, and lots of it. With the advent of social media, attention spans are dwindling by the second. In order to grab and keep viewers, you have to keep offering information that is interesting and relevant.

No media outlet wants to air a static interview where you see only talking heads. Think about B-roll, background video that you can provide to help illustrate your story. Consider using statistics to create a graphic. Offer before and after photos, provide logos of your business, write bullet points that can be superimposed, or “supered,” onscreen, give them your web address, etc.

Most important, remember it’s not all about what you want. To successfully pitch a topic, consider what audiences want, and you’ll likely get the chance to tell your story.

What Sue’s Clients Say

Sue has an extraordinary ability to connect with the media. She is gifted at finding angles that appeal to news directors and reporters and is meticulous in preparing her guests for interviews. Sue worked with Stillwaters Cancer Support Services to promote our annual Hospital Food Fight fundraiser. Not only did she secure a slot for us on The Morning Blend, our target audience, but she walked us through every aspect of the interview.

Immediately after the show aired, registrations and calls were coming in. We got rave reviews for our interview skills on the show, and it was all because of Sue’s expert coaching. She also helped promote the interview and the event via social media. I can’t recommend her highly enough - her media connections, media training, writing and editing are stellar.

Theresa Reagan, Executive Director, Stillwaters Cancer Support Services, Waukesha, Wis.