The importance of ‘FaceTime’ with journalists
The pressure for coverage is constant for all PR professionals. Whilst sending out regular press releases can help keep your client’s name and work fresh in the minds of journalists, there’s no substitute for maintaining relationships with journalists and building their trust in your ability to provide a good story.
In the Internet age, there are more ways than ever to contact editors, but that doesn’t mean you should get complacent. Some editors will be receptive to interacting on social media, but often (especially in trade media), good old-fashioned face time is the only way to forge a personal connection and build a lasting relationship.
Being able to put a face to the name may well mean the difference between your email jumping out in a crowded inbox or disappearing into the abyss of unopened pitches.
Journalists will always head straight to sources they know will deliver what they need in a specific time frame. Getting to know key journalists will encourage them to come to you first.
When attempting to meet a journalist, first make sure that they’re the right person to talk to. If they don’t write on the specific subject matter that you or your client is concerned with, it’ll be a waste of both your time and theirs. Next, work out the type of meeting. Is it an informal lunch, a catch up at a trade event or something more formal? On-site press visits can provide an opportunity to demo new technology, products or facilities and allow journalists to see things with their own eyes, rather than presenting them with a picture. It’s also a good opportunity to expose journalists to subject matter experts or board members. Conferences and events are a great way to get large groups of journalists together with senior figures, and to discuss technologies in great detail but they can require a lot of planning and a large budget.
It can be difficult to tear journalists away from their desks; especially since the impact of the financial crisis of 2008 means there are fewer journalists, with a much larger workload. You should always make sure that they get something out of it, otherwise there will not be a repeat meeting. If you’ve given them a story that is new and relevant, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a trusted source. Show willing– they don’t have to meet you, so the easier you make it for them (by meeting near their offices, booking their travel and hotel), the more likely they are to agree to it.
Once they’re there, make the most of your time as well as theirs. Give it some forethought – not just by highlighting the messages you or your client wants to convey, but also about what they’ll want out of the meeting and how best to provide that to them.
As much as time-strapped journalists could be said to be increasingly dependent on PR material, they’ll still only publish your stories if it’s worth their while.