By AMY MARIE OROZCO
Quick! Name the business page reporter for your local daily newspaper. The one whose beat includes your company.
A gold star for you if you knew the reporter’s name. If not, not to worry, you can find it easily enough by checking the morning paper or Google-ing it (“[name of newspaper] + business reporter”). Then, you’ll have completed the first step to building a relationship with the media—knowing an individual’s name. This first step is critical in helping you secure publicity.
Contrary to what many might think, journalists are human beings. They only appear monster-like sometimes because they are constantly racing against a clock, and that race leaves a razor thin margin for niceties such as common courtesy and politeness.
Learning to navigate reporters’ tight schedules and pitch stories quickly will help you get on their good side.
The next step to forging a relationship with the media is not to take any of the aforementioned lack of civility personally. While it’s hard not to be offended and arch your back after being hung up on, just remember, it’s not you. It’s the media. And, they don’t see their behavior as rude. It’s how they get their job done. They act that way toward everybody.
Now, to build a long lasting and beneficial relationship with the media, try the following. (Remember: don’t take anything personally.)
Introduce yourself. Pick up the phone and call. Most likely you’ll get voicemail so have a 15-second message ready. Follow up with an email. Let the reporter know about your expertise in your field. Offer a few story ideas with unusual angles. Most likely you won’t get a response, and that’s okay.
Mind the time. Journalists are always on deadline. Use a direct approach. Stick to a point, and stick to what you know. Return calls and emails quickly. Use first and last names and, when possible, answer Who, What, Where, When, Why without being asked. A deadline is hard and fast. It’s not a target.
Be reliable. Don’t stretch the truth. Don’t spin. Ever. If you don’t know an answer to something, say so. (And, if asked to speculate on rumor or innuendo, do yourself a favor and don’t.)
Help them. You’d be surprised to what extent journalists use the Internet to do their job. Is your Website media friendly? Is there a Press tab? Are key personnel names and contact info readily available? High resolution photos of products and people easily downloadable? A clear and concise write-up on your company available?
Stay in touch. Keep them in the loop. Email is the preferred way; an occasional phone call is okay. Expand your social media. Link one of the reporter’s story you find interesting on your company’s blog. Re-Tweet. Follow the reporter on Facebook. Remember, there’s a thin line between persistent and annoying. Be careful not to cross it.
Nothing too earth shattering, is it? Maybe not common sense, but easy enough. Yet, so many business people are in the dark. Follow the above guidelines, and soon you’ll have a relationship with a local reporter and your name will be in lights.
For more information on building relationships with the media, read Dorie Clark’s piece on the Huffington Post or Abbi Whitaker’s post on Ragan’s PR Daily.