If you’ve been in PR even a short while you know we publicists have a (sometimes well earned) reputation for annoying reporters with incessant pitches of non-news items on behalf of our clients. (We’re adding a new location! The latest version of our software was released!) There are whole slide decks, blogs and memes devoted to how we drive reporters nuts.
You’d think we offered no value to reporters. That we were a pox on their house.
You and I know we do more for writers than spam. We deliver story ideas in the nick of time, coordinate interviews across time zones, negotiate photo shoots and fact check obscure stats, always asking, “What’s your deadline?”
But until this week, I thought no one else knew that.
You guys, the reporters have seen the work, and they get it.
This week on The Freelancer, the blog of Contently, Variety and Mashable writer Katherine Brodsky wrote How to Use Publicists to Become a Better Journalist in which she lays out the three key steps for using us (with dignity) to get stories. My business partner, who is a former reporter, shared it with me and when I read it was like a cool drink of validation in a dry and dusty media land. She offered three simple tips - get on press lists, keep in touch and use news wires - but it was her overall message that had me saying, Preach it, sister:
Use social media to connect, nurture and maintain relationships with publicists for your mutual benefit. And be nice.
In here you have the entire basis for my business. So simple and yet so underutilized by both pr reps and journalists.
Let’s talk more about we as publicists can work with media folks via social media.
Connect and be SOCIAL. Like a human bean.
I still rock a press release and a newswire when I need them, but social is where I do my business daily. I don’t pitch a reporter without connecting with her on social first. How else would I know what’s important to her and what she’s working on?
(Same is true for a blogger. I don’t pitch a design blogger unless I’ve taken the time to learn her audience and aesthetic. If my client’s product isn’t her style I move on. I don’t want to waste my time or hers.)
I love how Brodsky put it from a reporter’s perspective,
“If you specialize in a certain topic or industry, it’s important that you get to know the PR people who represent the top brands in that field. That way, when there is big news, you can be among the first to know. In-person meetings may not always be possible, but you can be social without even leaving the house by bantering over Twitter or LinkedIn.”
Offer something first. Bring value before asking for coverage. Be helpful.
I want journalists to have me and my clients top of mind so I keep THEM top of my mind. Because a lot (a lot, a lot) of my day is spent on social monitoring news and trends I see nuggets from all industries: design, architecture, tech, startups, food, pets, sports. If I know that a reporter in my network is working on the changing state of business in New Jersey, for instance, I can shoot him a quick message with a story lead when I find it. (More on that to come.)
Twitter makes this easy. More and more I see reporters using it for their research and communications. From including requests for news tips in their profile descriptions to making career anouncements like this one Julia Shapiro tweeted when she became continuous news editor at TIME.
I also share good reporting with my network. A story doesn’t have to be about my client to be worth my time. When I find a well researched and reported piece I share with my audience and take the time out to recognize the reporter. Because that’s good human behavior, and that’s good for business too.
You can understand that because we pr reps appreciate the same treatment.
In her story, Brodsky quotes Lisa Schwartz, director of lifestyle, leisure, and resorts at Diamond PR, about what she appreciates in a media relationship.
“I spend so much time following up with writers to see when their pieces are running that it is incredibly refreshing when I get a proactive update or a link,” she said.
Yes! It’s rare and so appreciated.
As Brodsky says, “Keeping that good relationship can mean you get exclusive access to that next juicy story or an embargoed release.”
(I’m sitting on a business story right now that I’m dying to share. When the time is right and the client gives me the go, you know I’m going to call the reporter who’s covered my client before -- and who’s been respectful and thoughtful with my time too).
One thing Brodsky didn’t cover is the publicist’s role as a publisher. Your company blog, if it’s strategic, can take the place of press releases and give you an entree to reporters on social media. The FAQs, dilemmas and industry trends you write about can spark story ideas for writers and editors, which can lead to press for you if you know how to leverage it on social media. (More on this in my agency’s blog, How To Turn Your Blog Into Free Press.)
Take this recent example. Earlier this spring we wrote a blog Goodbye Cubicle, Hello Inspired Collaboration for our client Bell Works, the former Bell Labs (the gigantic Eero Saarinen designed building in Holmdel, NJ being reimagined as a work play space by Somerset Development.) The story featured the work of designer Paola Zamudio of NPZ and the mission of vi Collaboration Hub as they work together to build a flexible, innovative work space to attract New Jersey’s brightest talent.
Our agency shared the blog on social media in tech and business communities, and directly with business reporters via Twitter, LinkedIn and good old fashioned email. To those reporters who liked or engaged with the posts we privately shared professional photos of the space not included in the piece with a few additional news ideas.
When Michael Diamond, a business reporter whom I talk to often on social media, expressed interest in Paola’s design work, we helped him develop his angle by sharing the Bell Works collaboration blog, pictures and coordinated an interview with the designer.
The result was Diamond's story in the Asbury Park Press - Bell Works: 4 design tips make workplace awesome.
Now we’ll share his news story on social media and the cycle will begin all over again.
We were helpful to Diamond in his work providing relevant news to his audience and he helped us spread the word on our client’s enterprise to that same important audience.
We worked together in a symbiotic relationship. No one was annoyed or had to sell out. And no one had to issue or receive a press release...
Probably one of the biggest compliments I have ever received in my career as a publicist came from a reporter commenting to another reporter, "She's one of the good ones."
Backhanded yes, but it meant this reporter saw me as a helpful resource, someone who gets it. That's something I want to continue.
I learned early in my career that I was never going to annoy someone into giving my client favorable coverage. Instead I learned that building relationships with reporters is no different than cultivating other business connections. It takes an appreciation for the other person’s job and some deliberate, thoughtful nurturing.
And Twitter. Twitter definitely helps.
Need help in connecting with your media prospects? Learn how to build relationships with reporters via social media in our workbook.