- Contacting editors and reporters
- Following up with them to measure feasibility of news releases
- Thanking them
The art of cultivating relationships with editors and reporters is one that takes time and patience. These people have tight deadlines and usually do not have time to speak with people about their stories or pitches. Worse, they are often harassed by pitchers because the end game is getting their story told.
That approach ends up doing two things:
- It prevents the article that is being sold from getting published.
- It also angers the editor or reporter to the point which future contact with the person calling will not happen.
These points are real and should be taken seriously. As a reporter, I HATED people calling me on deadline and rattling off their story ideas to me without the courtesy of saying “hello” first. Do they not realize they are speaking with another human being? Apparently not, because there is no connection between the person and the decision maker. Therefore, one can easily understand why it becomes important to be friendly while pitching the media about a story idea.
My way is sending them information first then following up within a day or two. Many people skip this step for whatever reason. It is also why their information does not make it into the local media. I often find that the editors and reporters either did not receive the information or have not thought about the details. That is where a phone call or email can do wonders for generating coverage.
It gives me a chance to speak with the editor or reporter about the story and find out what else they are doing. Perhaps there is a client that could be of service for that new story? Or, I can direct them to a resource they were unaware of before. If you can be a valuable resource for the media outlets, then it will not be long before they begin calling you for ideas and story direction. That would be the ultimate goal; being a point person for a local, regional or national media outlet to contact you for information.
It does not matter whether the story involves a local resident or a national issue; the manner in which this needs to be done remains the same. Being able to respect the editors and reporters’ time and deadlines goes a long way toward gaining that respect and trust and may enable articles and pitches to be heard with clearer ears or read with eyes wide open.
Speaking from the “other side” (the news reporting side), I wanted to hear what people were thinking and saying in the towns I covered and the issues affecting them. That meant being able to figure out what the message was and delivering that fairly and accurately. It also meant being patient as the people tried to promote their service, event, or issue.
Yet, many of them failed in the one aspect of the conversation that would have made me a little more interested. Their fatal flaw was not finding out if I was on deadline when they called. Would you want to speak with someone who is trying to get something important done? Unless it was an emergency, then the answer would be “No.” That irked me then, and I remember that lesson when reaching out to journalists now. A little compassion can go a long way….
Finally, when a reporter or an editor goes out of their way to listen to your pitch, publishes the information, it is a good idea to thank them for their time and for doing you a favor. Editors can find news leads from anywhere (or from anybody), so they don’t need you. That isn’t the case the other way around. If you manage to anger them, then the chances of having them as a resource decreases dramatically.
Remember; editors and reporters are out to help, but they can just as easily find something or someone else to cover. Keep that in mind when working with media.