Everyone wants a reporter to cover their story. But who knows what reporters want? Yes, reporters want great stories, but you have to remember that they are people, too. You may not have a story that you want to pitch to a reporter today, but any publicist worth her salt knows that most times, getting a story covered is more about relationships than about how great the story is.
So what if you started planning today for the story that you may want to pitch 6 months or a year from now? What if I told you that there was something you could do right now that would almost guarantee that your story would be covered when you pitch it? Would you do it? Yes? Great! Because the key to getting your story covered is building relationships in advance. Think about it. Your rich uncle on his deathbed would not leave his fortune to the family members he never sees. No, instead he will leave it to the ones who cared for him the most in his dying days. I’m sure you’ve read news stories of wealthy people passing away and instead of leaving there money to their family, they choose to leave it to their pets, or donate it all. That’s usually because there was no one they had a close relationship with.
Although getting press coverage for your story is not as severe, reporters and blogger work the same way. Most of the stories that reporters and bloggers cover are those that come to them from someone they know or are interested in. So how can you build a relationship with a reporter you’ve never met before so that they’ll want to cover your story? Here are 7 tips for building relationships with reporters
1. Read and share their content
The easiest way to build a relationship with a reporter or blogger is by actually reading and sharing their content. Compliment them on a great article. Discuss a particular viewpoint. Reporters love when people not only read, but also engage with their content.
2. Follow them on social media
This is a must. You’ll start to learn what they like and dislike, what their interests are. Social media also creates very informal passages to start a conversation. Whenever they tweet or share something that you can reply to, do. Don’t be creepy. Do be intelligent and respectful and always add value.
3. Meet them in person
Most people who work in media by nature are social creatures. So if you see a reporter, blogger or podcaster you’ve been dying to meet out at an event, introduce yourself. Interact with them. This will definitely help if you’ve already been interacting with them on social media and if you’ve been reading and sharing their work. This allows them to put a face to the name. Remember, while they may have some celebrity, they are human. Be proactive about this. Attend the conferences, events, workshops, and trade shows where you know reporters who write about your industry will be. Now, a word of caution: avoid invading personal space. That means that if you’re at dinner, you may not want to stop in the restaurant and have a full blown conversation. A brief and friendly introduction would be more than enough. Follow up with a tweet saying how great it was seeing them out. This will build the connection for them, and will keep your weirdness levels to a minimum.
4. Give them some ideas
Remember this is not all about you, so if you hear of something newsworthy that’s relevant for the reporter, share it with them. Ask them for their feedback on other related stories and do not be afraid to give them your resources for free! Yes, that’s right if you have something that may be of help, help. No strings attached, no questions asked. Whenever you help others it always comes back to you, so this is really a no-brainer.
5. Pitch a good story
When you finally do pitch a story, make it a good one. No reporter wants to cover a bad story, because well, it makes them look bad. Even if you aren’t a publicist, do some research on how to write a press release and what kind of stories reporters and bloggers may be interested in. If you’ve been cultivating the relationship for a while, your first pitch is the most important. If you are able to deliver a great story, the reporter will know that they can always count on you for good content.
6. Respect their deadlines
So many people act as if they don’t know that reporters have deadlines. Yes, due dates for when they submit their articles to their editors/bosses. If you want to keep your relationship in good standing with a reporter, deliver them what they request as quickly as you can. If they miss a deadline, their story may not run, which ultimately means your story may not run. Be mindful of this. Do not put their request on the back burner. Deliver as soon as you can.
7. Nurture the relationship
After your story runs, don’t just fall off the face of the earth. Continue to nurture the relationship that you built with the reporter. By doing so, you will almost guarantee that your next story will get covered, and the one after that, and so on. Just like with any relationship, whatever you did to develop it, continue to do that to maintain it.
Every time you pitch a story or send out a press release you’re taking a chance. The reporter may not open it, may not be interested. But if you focus on developing relationships before you actually pitch your story, you increase your chances of your story getting coverage. Remember, press coverage, and a strong PR campaign is all about relationships. If you use these 7 tips (and any other ways you can think of) to develop relationships with reporters, you will significantly increase the amount of press your business receives. Remember the best relationships are mutually beneficial, so the more value you add, the more valuable the relationship will become over time.