A few weeks ago, as I pulled into my driveway after a long week of work, I received a phone call from a reporter I work with wanting a quote for a story. I called and emailed clients for the next two hours trying to get a comment for him. I never did get one, but the reporter was grateful for the effort.
This story reminds me why some PR practitioners maintain good relationships with the media and others don’t. Here are some points for young PR executives to remember.
Go above and beyond the call of duty. If a reporter calls you at 5 p.m. on a Friday, don’t hang up or blow him off. Do all you can to help him finish his story and get sources. He will remember it in the future.
Don’t send crap. An old boss of mine said the reason why our agency landed successful story placements was that we distributed well-written press releases. We wrote the press releases like news stories so that reporters could copy and paste them into a paper. That isn’t exactly great journalism, but in these days of thinning newsrooms, reporters and editors love a press release that doesn’t need much work.
Understand the reporter’s beat. It helps to learn about the subjects a reporter covers. If a reporter writes about politics and you send her technology stories, you will soon find yourself in the dog house. Do some research and read about what kind of stories the reporter covers. It will pay off in the long run.
Do some real networking. Ask the reporter to lunch or out to drinks. Keep in mind, some papers prohibit this. Talk about the industry and what is going on in his life. Don’t pitch any stories; just spend some time getting to know the reporter and try to develop an actual relationship. He will end up liking you more than the PR rep who only calls when he wants favorable coverage.
Broaden your scope. Send the reporter story ideas that are not related to your clients, and don’t always pitch your sources. This makes you a true media source—not just a conduit for your clients.
Old-time PR practitioners may use many of these tactics, but these are useful tips for beginners. Use some of these tips, and you will soon end up a reporter’s best friend—not the flack whose press releases go straight to the trash.
Manny Otiko is vice president of social and new media at Desmond & Louis. A version of this article originally ran on PR Breakfast Club.