TLC: Three tips for media relations

Imagine you’re representing a hospital that’s just promoted the VP of finance to the CEO position. On the way to a swanky reception dinner, the communications director tells you he expects a story in the Wall Street Journal or Forbes by the end of the week. “Got it?” he tells you. Click.

You gulp in trepidation. “WSJ? Impossible!” you think. But instead of feeling sorry for yourself, feel sorry for the journalist on the other end who has to sit through his 35th story idea today.

We get so wrapped up in our own PR worries that we often forget the reporter on the other line is also – surprise! – a human being too. They have deadlines to meet, interviews to run to, and an endless stream of emails to read just like you. Treating the journalist with respect and goodwill may be the extra oomph that sets your pitch apart.

To show a reporter you care, consider these quick tips:

  1. Show some respect. We may see journalists as vessels for our message and forget that they, too, are searching for insightful story ideas that will earn them the respect of their peers and readers. Only pitch stories that contribute to their body of work. Irrelevant ideas are not only a distraction, but can seem insulting. It could harm your relationship with the journalist in the long run.
  2. Know how a newsroom operates. Reporters have to justify stories to their editor and may risk personal capital pitching a half-baked idea. Do the legwork by developing a compelling, coherent narrative that explains why your story is relevant in the "real world." Reporters also cover very specific beats, so do your homework and take the time to familiarize yourself with their unique content and writing style.
  3. Arm your journalist with the tools they need. Would you ever show up to a transatlantic flight without a passport? Of course not. So why would you expect reporters to type up earth-shattering works of journalistic genius without providing any of the materials? Today, journalists need to think through a multimedia perspective so their stories receive enough page views, attract social media buzz, and generate sufficient ad revenue. If you can offer access to an exclusive photo or video, you’re going to be taken a lot more seriously because you understand how the industry is evolving.

Above all, don’t treat reporters like mindless, typing robots. With a little patience, planning and – yes – humanity, you can help a journalist develop a fantastic story that pleases your boss and theirs.