The other day I sent a note to some trusted members of my professional network to the effect that a reporter at a reputable business publication was seeking sources for a story I couldn’t help with.
The message prompted one colleague to email back, “What are you…on someone’s speed dial?” Well, no, perhaps not, but whenever I have the opportunity to be resourceful, I’ll jump through hoops to help a reporter out. Even if there’s nothing in it for me.
It’s a building block of relationship building – a utility vehicle that can carry more than just your payload. So, here are five tips I’ve found helpful for relationship building.
1. Just Have a Conversation
If you have something interesting to say, send a note to a reporter commenting on a story they wrote. Don’t pitch a new one, that is to say, don’t ask for anything: just provide a comment – just like you might do on a blog, but with a personal touch. This is one point you might take away from the Cluetrain Manifesto – one of those classic books every PR pro should read.
2. Provide an Objective Story Idea
You’ve studied what stories a reporter writes – you know their beat and their audience. When you see new research – a survey, a study – send them a link and a couple brief points. If you’ve got your own take on what the data means, feel free to pass it along, but keep it short, meaningful and to the point.
3. Suggest Reader’s Interest
Ever done some research and couldn’t find relevant information, or information that’s definitive? Sounds like a feature to me. Send a note to an editor, mention you searched their new site and couldn’t find anything relevant. Call them up and suggest a story – but do it as a reader, not as a PR professional. No agenda.
4. Add Value
Comment on a story they wrote in the comments section, but add value, don’t pitch a new story. I’ve found that reporter views on comments vary. For example, I’ve spoken to some, like one at Politico that admits openly to hating comments or moderating them or participating in the discussion. I’ve seen others, like those at Fast Company and Mashable respond and engage insightful commentators.
5. Be Extra Resourceful
Ever pitch a story, have a reporter interested, but then jettison the story idea for some reason beyond your control, or theirs, your angle is outside the purview of the story?
Send a note to your contacts and see if you can find someone else that fits – and send the reporter a sentence about the source and the contact information. Yes, I’m suggesting doing some work that won’t directly benefit you – but you’ll have helped a reporter and just maybe they’ll read your pitch next time as well.
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The Paradox of Media Relations