The fourth estate is just about as American as apple pie – these are the people who embody a core tenant of our First Amendment, the people who we rely on to give us unfettered access to developments in the world around us. Whether it’s a local news story of the neighborhood alley cat being hit by a car, long-form, embedded reporting with a far-right mountain militia, or simply a journalist’s review of the hottest new Rumba offshoot, (shout out to members of #TeamTMG cleaning their apartments in the most efficient, 2017 way possible), journalists seek to go out front and give us a perspective on the world that we’d never have without the power of their pen. But how do we in the PR industry look to leverage their skills and areas of reporting?
Journalists Are Our Friends
There’s a unique symbiosis between journalists and PR agency folks that’s hard to find in any other industry. Think about it; journalists need content to crank out, and in this fast-paced, 24-hour news cycle, that can sometimes be hard to come by. As PR people, we want positive coverage in the public eye for our client – we give reporters the story fodder, our client gets recognition, and boom, everyone wins – truly a match made in PR heaven. But how do these relationships begin and continue to be fruitful for all parties down the road?
As noted in a previous blog post, your clients’ work is now your new area of expertise. Is your client a foundation? Break out the checkbook because philanthropy is your new jam. Got an automotive client? Rev those engines, baby. The first step in building and maintaining those reporter relationships is by reaching out. Start at the top with your tier one publications – your Washington Posts, your New York Times – then work your way down to online publications, industry/trade publications, and even your local news outlets, (local news is important – show them some love). Then, find the reporter who covers the beat most closely related to your clients’ industry and write up an email.
The concept of sending an email to a complete stranger often makes people uncomfortable, but in this industry, it’s so common that reporters won’t bat an eye at a random address in their inbox. This should have a casual, get-to-know-you tone. I always come into these first points of contact demonstrating that I’m clueless about the industry. Something along the lines of the following:
“Hi reporter X,
My name is ~*insert clueless PR associate name*~ and I just started representing my client in industry X. Since this is your area of expertise, I’d love to sit down for a quick coffee with you, get a general state of the industry from a news perspective and pick your brain some about our shared field. Is there a day this or next week that would work for you to sit down and give me some more information?”
More often than not, reporters are completely open to this kind of cold emailing tactic and are happy to sit down with you. There is absolutely nothing to lose by simply sending an email – nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?
Relationship Established – Now What?
When sitting down with the reporter in your clients’ relevant field, consider all of the information they’re giving you as fascinating intel, and make sure to take notes – they’ll know you’re serious about wanting to gain insight into the field, demonstrating that you’re serious about representing your client. Be sure to name drop your client if they’re public-facing, or at the very least, touch on issues that your client wants at the forefront of the news cycle. Without being too overzealous, the reporter will have a sense of what kind of quid pro quos you can set up down the road.
After your meeting, send a follow-up email thanking them profusely for their time. It meant the world to you. Don’t hesitate to drop into their inbox every couple of weeks or so, maybe just with general updates about your clients’ work or just to circle back and say hey. If you can establish yourself in the reporters’ eyes as a credible and reliable source for industry commentary, you’ve won a major PR battle: getting noticed. After all, isn’t that the goal of this work to begin with?
Now you — and by extension of you, your client — has an in. As long as you make sure to stay on the reporter’s radar, next time they need commentary, a spokesperson interview on industry developments, or even just an op-ed or something to fill space on their website, you’ll be first on the list. Relationships with reporters in the PR industry are sacred. Remember, they’re people with jobs and due dates too, and they need you as much as you need them. No #fakenews here! Now, go forth and email your heart out.
Prior to joining The Moak Group, Noah helped run a 2014 Lieutenant Governor’s race as Director of Field Operations and Communications in his home state of Arkansas.
Latest posts by Noah Walker (see all)
- Journalists Are People Too: A Guide to Building and Maintaining Reporter Relationships - September 22, 2017
- Communications: The Tofu of Careers - August 18, 2017
- “I’m Not Dead Yet!” Why Traditional Media Still Drives the News Agenda - August 4, 2017