By Chelsie Woods
If telling your story through the media is important to your business, then developing a positive working relationship with the media is critical.
Like most people today, reporters and editors are trying to do more work with less time. Thanks to email, social media and the 24/7 news cycle, the media is faced with information overload. It’s impossible for a reporter to have the time to pay attention to every email or press release received.
Having a good relationship with reporters and their publications gives your news or communications an immediate leg up on other the competing items in a reporter’s inbox. It also increases the chances that the journalist might consider or even call on you directly as a resource.
So how do you get there? Journalists like sources who are available, accessible, helpful and who understand the requirements and restrictions under which they are required to do their job. To start, below are five areas important to media that can help you in your story pitching and ultimately foster an ongoing and mutually beneficial relationship.
Tip 1: Research the Publication – Are you looking for the reporter to conduct an interview where you can serve as a subject matter expert for an article, or do you want to submit a written piece that lists you or something at your company as the author? Not every B2B publication will accept a pre-written article, even if the article is a non-commercial, vendor agnostic snapshot of the latest trends in home automation, for example. Many publications almost exclusively write their own content, and want to conduct interviews themselves. Understanding which publication takes what approach will go a long way in showing the journalist that you are offering them something of value and not wasting time pitching them content they won’t use.
Tip 2: Understand Deadlines – The news cycle varies by publication type and understanding this can be the difference between getting quoted or missing a prime opportunity to be featured in the latest article talking about trends in your area of expertise (which, by the way, also quotes your two closest competitors). Daily newspapers and online publications typically have a very quick turnaround with most reporters only having a few hours to work on a story. Monthly printed magazines in the B2B market often work off a longer editorial cycle, and they plan editorial content months in advance. The first question you should ask the reporter is what is his or her deadline, so that you can reply in a timely manner.
Tip 3: Be Trustworthy – Reporters want to interview subject matter experts they can trust and who are knowledgeable and articulate on a particular topic. It is never a good idea to pretend that you as an individual, or your company, has an expertise in a particular area when you do not. If you want to build a relationship with a reporter, be truthful and forthright if you aren’t qualified to answer a particular question or would need to seek out the answer and follow up with them at a later date.
Tip 4: Provide Facts & Details – Reporters like details and they want to be able to provide specifics when they write their story. Do you have some facts and figures that you can share relating to your business growing in a particular market or industry segment? Can you tell the reporter that your company saw its sales grow 20 percent because you introduced a new product that solved a certain pain point? If your company policy allows you to, and your client(s) give their permission, share some examples of how you served a particular customer or share ballpark sales growth figures when appropriate.
Tip 5: Make Connections – Sometimes we don’t have the answers to all the questions a reporter asks, but we may know someone who does. Offering to make a connection with a colleague or industry consultant who can answer a specific question can go a long way by showing that you are connected in the market. Reporters like to talk to resources that are helpful (and connected) and this will only help to establish the credibility of you and your company.
It takes time to build a positive working relationship with the media. However, once a reporter finds that you are a resource who is willing to help and can provide useful information, you can probably expect to be called on for future editorial opportunities relating to your expertise.
— Chelsie Woods is one of two founding owners of Eclipse Media Group. She has nearly two decades of public relations and writing experience in the technology and security industries and worked as a reporter for three newspapers in Maine.