PR is about the Relationships
When I worked as a newspaper reporter and editor, public relations professionals would occasionally ask me to meet for lunch or coffee. I truly didn’t mind meeting with them to put a face with the press release. I also felt it would give me the opportunity to better explain our newsroom and our publication so the PR folks could better target their messages, rather than blanketing the entire newsroom with the same release or coverage request.
Now I’m on the other side of the desk, asking editors out on coffee dates so we can get to know each other. I find the majority are willing to sit down and chat, and I take the same approach I did as an editor myself – get to know more about the publication so we can better target our pitches.
I’ve also found developing these relationships is critical. I’ll admit when I worked in the newsroom, I would be more likely to take a call or respond to an e-mail from a PR professional I knew than from one I didn’t know. I had developed a relationship with that person and felt more confident that his or her pitch would be on target.
Understanding newsroom operations, such as who covers which beat, is even more important in today’s media world. Newsroom staffing has been cut … and cut … and cut, so fewer reporters are doing the same amount of work and they are stretched to their limits. Now is not a good time to send the same release to the entire editorial staff.
Be thoughtful in your approach, figuring out who on the staff writes on which issues and subjects. Then approach that reporter with an actual news story or a useful source. The can-you-do-a-story-on-my-client-just-because strategy will get you nowhere and will hurt your credibility.
Pay attention to what’s happening in the news and how it might impact your clients. Can they serve as thoughtful sources for a larger story? Do they have a unique story to tell? Find that news angle first and then approach the appropriate reporter. The reporter will appreciate your efforts and you’ll establish yourself as a PR person with some sense – and that can really set you apart.
Do you agree with this approach? Are you a PR professional who has modified your tactics from blanketed news releases to targeted pitching? As a journalist, what do you prefer?