As a newbie communications practitioner, I start many emails and phone conversations with the words “Hi, I’m just calling/writing to follow up..” Thereafter I quickly blurt out my message, careful not to let my voice sound too high pitched or take up too much of the journo’s precious time. After a quick exchange, I hang up the phone and wonder about the editor/journalist/producer on the other end. What do they think of us communicators just “following up” all the darn time and is it possible to get past the follow up calls and emails to build a genuine relationship?
Every PR professors I’ve had has stressed the importance of establishing mutually beneficial relationships with journalists before the proverbial s**t hits the fan. So when a crisis is upon your organization, you can tell it all and tell it fast through a credible medium. But wanting to move past the transactions of information and sales-like follow up calls is easier said than done. In a reality where journalists are extremely busy and wary of PR people, how can we foster these connections?
Morgan Norris of Trew Marketing really started the wheels turning for me with a few concrete steps to build these relationships. As with life in general, connecting with journalists is all in the details. Blanket calls or emails to all media outlets in your city will not be effective, in fact they can be downright destructive and lead newsmakers to identify you as a much reviled “spammer”. Instead focusing on really getting to know a journalist’s body of work and being an active participant in that work will pay off in the long run. Comment on their articles and connect with them via social media. Aspectus PR recommends targeting and conversing with journos on LinkedIn, as some %92 of journos use the site. Be aware that superficial connections with a sales goal will not work. You need to really engage with the content and interests of the journalist, then find ways to become a dependable and knowledgeable resource when they need you. And make sure that you are connecting frequently, not just when you are launching a new “revolutionary” product or navigating a crisis. Speaking of revolutionary, don’t oversell your product or peddle a marketing campaign as news. Journalists are called newshounds for a reason, and they will quickly sniff out the BS.
What other ways are there to proactively engage and create relationships with journalists? What tactics have worked for your organization?