When my husband Keith recently spoke to the Phoenix Chapter of PRSA, he talked about how PR professionals can improve their chances of getting reporters to cover stories about their clients. That conversation isn’t complete without a discussion about social media. But Keith also stressed something so simple and obvious: Make friends with a reporter.
Here’s what he means. Someone in PR last week left Keith a voicemail on his cell phone about a client he hopes to get on TV. Mr. PR had no idea but his timing couldn’t have been worse. Keith is at home on paternity leave, plus he’s got a lot on his mind and is on crutches after falling off a ladder and seriously injuring his knee.
Some reporters will conveniently forget about your message even if they’re sitting at their desk doing nothing more than watching the World Cup, Wimbledon, NBA Finals or a copy of their live shot from the day before. But Keith had lunch twice before with this PR contact. They worked on several stories in the past. And they just didn’t talk clients over pasta and Mexican food. They talked about their families, futures and common interests.
So while he sat inside our car outside Einstein Bagels with our newborn in the car seat in back and his leg aching in a knee immobilizer in front, Keith called back. The client’s story was somewhat time sensitive, and considering Keith is unavailable to cover it himself, Mr. PR didn’t want to hand it off to anyone who would just slap it together.
Keith called someone at work he knew would take ownership of the project and most likely you’ll see a special report on the client during a newscast near you. This is what Keith means about making friends with a reporter. With so much talk about social media and picking an email subject certain to grab attention, sometimes good ‘ole fashion face-to-face networking is still the way to go in modern marketing. Is it possible to make the same connection with a Tweet, email or wall post? Sure. But not everyone online invests the time to talk about their kids or dogs when deadlines are on everyday’s calendar.
Most journalists might tell you there’s no time for lunch, but trust me. Many ensure they get one sometimes even when they shouldn’t. (Ever see what happens when free food arrives in a newsroom?) You just might need to be flexible and persistent to get a sitdown with someone. And, at no fault of your own, some reporters just won’t work with you. But it’s worth a try.
Making friends this way (mixed in with some social media) might make clients very happy in the future.