How to Be a Reporter’s Best Friend

As I mentioned in a previous newsletter, good PR is just like good sales.

In other words, building relationships works in sales. Building and nurturing relationships is also essential to long term success in PR.

The image of a reporter brings to my mind the character of Lois Lane or Clark Kent. Always in a hurry, banging away at the typewriter and constantly looking for a scoop or breaking story.

While times have changed, the role of a reporter has more or less remained the same. Here are some tips on how you can be a reporter’s best friend:

1. Avoid sending emails with attached documents

This is a common rookie mistake. It won’t irritate the reporter. It just means more likely than not, your email will be snagged by their spam or anti-virus filter and not make it to their Inbox.

Instead, cut and paste the words from any document directly into the body of the email. This goes for press releases especially.

2. If they are on deadline and need something, get it to them

Reporters are almost always on deadline. This means that they have a hard deadline to get all materials in for publication. If you are contributing to a reporter’s story who is on deadline, you better make sure you can deliver what you promised to them in time. If you don’t, your future requests may go straight to the Trash bin.

3. Be honest

Nothing gets you blacklisted by the press faster than lying. This could be in the form of the actual facts or data you’re pitching. It could be in promising an exclusive but instead allowing competing outlets to run with a story. It could be making promises of getting them info for their deadline. Honesty is always the best policy.

4. Put yourself in their shoes

Like any good salesperson, put yourself in the reporter’s shoes. What do they want to hear from you? What story ideas would fit their specialty? What are their pain points and how can you help them with it?

The best reality check is the “so what” question. If you were the reporter and you read what was being pitched to you, would you say so what? In other words, is there an actual story here?

5. Help make their job easier
You will get brownie points by helping reporters even if it doesn’t directly benefit you in this particular story. Again, since they are always on deadline, they greatly appreciate it if you can help them find or verify statistics, facts or quotes. Make sure formatting is all simple and correct with your grammar and spelling checked and double checked.

Doing this greatly increases the chance that you will be successfully “source filed” with the reporter, meaning they will note that you are a knowledgeable and reliable source for future stories. It’s a good way to get your company or executives mentioned here and there.

6. Don’t sell to them, sell for them

Another common mistake is selling your company or product to the reporter. Here’s the simple truth. The reporter and their readers don’t care about you. Sad but true. What they do care about are interesting stories that impact them.

One simple trick is to find stories that are already being covered in the media and find a way to link your story to these popular ones. For example, any trends in products such as the iPad, politics, environmental news, pop culture, etc.

Hopefully these six tips give you some food for thought. The next time you plan your public relations strategy, make sure you become a reporter’s best friend.