What Kind of Relationship Do You Want to Build with Reporters?

Suasion coordinated interview with WGAL and Executive Director of CILCP, Theo Braddy.

Suasion coordinated interview with WGAL and Executive Director of CILCP, Theo Braddy.

There is a lot of research out there regarding what kind of relationship public relations (PR) practitioners want to build with reporters.  Some research junkies say keep it professional while others conclude that a personal relationship is most advantageous for your organization.  But, will inviting reporters to lunch and learning their pets’ names really win you a front page story in the next issue?

I like a good meal as much as the next person, but I truly believe—and this comes from a nearly 20-year career in the PR industry—the best relationship you can build with reporters is a relationship of TRUST.

If you know someone, and they have learned to trust you even a little, you have more access, you stand out, and they pay more attention to what you say.  If you don’t, you’re one of 1,000 emails. Relationships run the world.  The same holds true for PR.  As NBC’s Chris Matthews once put it, “It’s not who you know. It’s who you get to know.”  And, I think what’s most important is what a reporter knows about you, not what you know about the reporter’s personal life.  The reporter needs to know you are a trustworthy resource.

Bombarding reporters with emails and press releases for dubious stories that often don’t even fit their beat or interests won’t win you any friends and certainly won’t build trust.  Journalists often complain they are deluged with material that shows the publicists haven’t even read their stories or columns, or seen their broadcasts.  It’s by far, their biggest pet peeve and will quickly destroy a relationship.

So, how do you build trustworthy relationships with the press?  Here are a few tips:

  1. Write or speak clearly and precisely.  Get right to the point.
  2. Be factual, accurate and reliable—these are all essential to building credibility and trust.
  3. Follow what reporters cover and understand their beat, writing style and the way they approach stories.
  4. Offer fabulous sources for interviews.
  5. Work as a liaison to schedule interviews.  Working behind the scenes to schedule interviews saves the journalist time and allows you to fully brief and prepare the interviewee.  This will enhance the resource, too.
  6. Be prompt, deliberate and quick in getting back to reporters.  Remember, the press works in a very fast-paced environment with deadlines looming all the time.
  7. Know their preferred method of receiving information whether it’s email, phone calls, faxes or tweets.
  8. Be considerate of their time.  Know when they are on deadline or have production meetings.

Remember, your job is to help them do their jobs even better.   A few years ago, journalists from a Media Relations Summit in San Francisco talked about tips for PR professionals.  They emphasized, “You are not my friend; you are my resource.”  If a reporter knows you provide good, solid information and resources in a quick manner and understand their readership or viewers, they will be more inclined to turn to you over and over again.  Trust me, it’s the best relationship to have with reporters and will help you garner the most coverage for your organization.

If you have any questions, or want more information regarding media relations, email me at Karen@suasion.us.

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