Friday, May 09, 2008

Brass tack #15. Make friends with journalists

Brass Tacks 15 and 16 go hand-in-hand as guidelines to win the hearts and minds of journalists.

If there are particular journalists who are likely to be regular recipients of your press releases, it helps if you give them a chance to get to know you. Then at least your name will stand out in their email inbox as a recognisable source and a real, flesh-and-blood human being, giving you the edge on other news sources who simply picked out the journalist’s name from a media directory.

The starting point of a good friendship would be a well-written, usable, newsy press release. Follow the Brass Tacks advice so far and you will be well on the way to winning respect from a fellow professional.

An individualised covering letter or email text is another positive step in this burgeoning relationship, especially if it sets out why you considered this news story to be of particular interest to him or her, based on your knowledge of what they write about (and how well they write it! Remember Dale Carnegie: ‘Flattery is telling the other person precisely what he thinks about himself’).

If they run the story, your next step is to thank them; this is the equivalent of buying them a beer or handing them a single rose. By now, the journalist will be aware of you as a named source of a particular type of story and will pay you that little extra bit of attention.

Keep up the treatment with a steady trickle of good press releases, packaged for the journalist's individualised needs and this could turn into a deep and meaningful relationship with you as the trusted source and the journalist as the privileged recipient of your news.

This is where you tread carefully so that you do not appear to abuse that trust. Copies of your press release may well be sent to several news media, but to avoid any impression of you cheating on your new found partner, you still have to make your news item appear special to them. Of course, deep down, journalists know that you are having other relationships with rival news media. But sending them identical stories with identical angles, identical photographs and identical quotes and interview opportunities – well that would be rubbing the salt into the wound just a little.

It’s useful and important for the journalist to see you as the reliable contact or spokesperson, especially if the organisation you represent is likely to be regularly in the news. Even if it isn’t, your expertise in a particular area could make you a useful supplier of quotes or comments whenever that topic is in the news agenda.

If it is likely from the beginning that you and the journalist are going to be in regular contact, it would be useful to invite yourself to the newsroom just to say hello so that they know who you are – perhaps supply a good quality head-and-shoulders photo of yourself for their files to be used whenever you are quoted.

One benefit of this approach is that you will get a fairer hearing if an adverse news story breaks about your organisation. The journalist might grill you but will still want you to remain a reliable source and it is more likely that your version of the events will be given a fair hearing and strong coverage.

Filed under:
media relations       press release      journalists    professionalism   
Dale Carnegie

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