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8 Ways to Engage Reporters and 5 Ways to Annoy Them

Who better to ask advice about how to engage with journalists and bloggers than a bunch of journalists and bloggers themselves?

With this in mind, we invited a group of seasoned journalists and bloggers into the Vocus UK office for a chat which we broadcast via webinar.

Building Relationships with Reporters

During the course of the conversation, we discovered how the panelists liked to be contacted (most preferred email), what they expect to accompany pitches (useable data, images, graphs, etc.) and how you can keep them engaged when you don’t have a story to push (buy them a beer).

We feature eight great tips taken from the webinar below. More importantly these are followed by five pet peeves because there is no point in building a relationship if you are going to throw it away by making a stupid mistake.

Missed the webinar? Register for the free on-demand version now!

How to Build Reporter Relationships

Tip 1: Don’t waste time pitching the wrong person

Find out who is the most relevant person to share your story with. Don’t waste valuable time pitching good ideas to the wrong person or irrelevant department. No matter how interesting your story is, it won’t get shared. With the wealth of information in the public domain, make sure you know exactly who you are trying to reach and their role within the publication/site.

“The first thing you must do when you approach a journalist is find out what their name is. Don’t send a blank email to a publication. Find the journalist who either runs the publication or the editorial for the section of the publication that you’re interested in becoming involved in” – Chris Dawson, Tamebay.

Tip 2: Make sure you have done your research

Once you have sussed out your journalist, it’s time to do your homework on what drives their content. Your journalist/blogger is in effect an ‘independent’ source unlikely to be associated with the sales arm of their organisation whose core sole objective will be to provide the audience with relevant and timely information. Approach your research as though you were about to interview for a job. A thorough look on the website and blog should give you an understanding of what is important to the audience.

“Do your research. A lot of questions I receive are like what kind of length of article or the tone of voice – you can actually find that out if you go to our blog” – San Sharma, Enterprise Nation.

Want to know more about the media? Download our free State of the Media Report 2014 now!

Tip 3: Open your pitch with an email

The best way to open your pitch is with an honest and brief email addressed to the journalist personally. While gimmicky/sensationalist headline may get your email opened – it won’t get the email read.

8 Seconds - Attention Span - Pitching ReportersIn a world where the average attention span has dwindled to a mere eight seconds (down from 12 seconds in 2000), it’s important to provide the journalist with enough information in your initial contact that will keep their interest. Always include the press release and the company you are working for – even if you’re an agency!

“Most journalists will open most emails however they will be discarded if there is nothing inside that matches the subject line”Ben Davis, Econsultancy.

Tip 4: Use pictures

A picture says 1,000 words and this could not be truer when submitting a story.

The journalists/bloggers we asked were unanimous in stressing the importance of using some form of imagery – so much so blogs like Tamebay will not submit a story without one!

“I’ve always made a point in thinking what’s the story and what’s the picture that makes the story come off the page and engage with people”Ardi Kolah, Guru in a Bottle.

“Something as simple as charting results up yourself also gives you the opportunity to add relevant logos or brand imagery before we even spoken about linking”Ben Davis, Econsultancy.

Tip 5: Make sure your PR is newsworthy

It’s important that your news is ‘newsworthy’.

“If you’re trying to get a news story – it does actually have to be news. The best way to do this in my experience is to give facts and figures that give additional meaning to things we already have in the public domain or its new data.”Ardi Kolah, Guru in a Bottle.

Tip 6: Be a community player

If you want credibility, you need to be active in the community you are targeting. This means, being active on a range of media and attending key industry events where necessary.  The more you are seen – the more the journalist or blogger will notice you and be interested to hear from you.

“At Enterprise Nation we are a community of small businesses owners and start-ups. I’m more likely to feature you story if I’ve seen you at one of our events or you’ve contributed to our blog as a commenter and you’ve been part of the enterprise nation experience. It does make a difference if you’re part of the community”San Sharma, Enterprise Nation.

Tip 7: Maintain the relationship

It’s important not to treat journalists/bloggers as a tool to be picked up and discarded depending on whether or not you need them. Once you’ve built up the relationship, make sure you maintain it. Remember this is a new business relationship you have cultivated. A phone call every month to ‘check-in’ will go a long way.

“Nine times out of 10 if you keep in touch something will come out of our conversations that I may decide to write about and you’ll get another mention on the blog”Chris Dawson, Tamebay.

Tip 8: Stay agile

Once you have your contact and have whetted their appetite for your great news, its key to be available for any questions. Especially in cases where your news may be time sensitive – you don’t want to end up missing the boat!

‘If you’re after coverage and get a journalists interest and they come back to you with a request for more information or a quote – get back to them within the hour if you can”Chris Dawson, Tamebay.

Furthermore, with those relationships you have already built this agility can win you more coverage.

“It’s always the person who is on the end of the phone that gets the article. That’s how organisations get coverage – by being available and being prepared to make the effort”Ardi Kolah, Guru in a Bottle.

A Summary of What Not to Do

  • Don’t approach the journalist assuming you can write for their audience better than they can.
  • Don’t forget to include all your contact details with your pitch including email, phone number and social media handles.
  • Don’t burn your bridges. If you are calling with every press release of dubious quality, you’ll quickly find call screening is used for your number.
  • Don’t send press releases from free email accounts – they will destroy any credibility your release promises.
  • Don’t sent stories that are irrelevant to the journalist/bloggers audience.

Image: pubcentral, Carbon Arc (Creative Commons)

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