Your fabulous public relations strategy, precision targeting and customized pitching have been rewarded by a journalist who’s requesting a client interview.
Are you going to cap all that hard work by giving that reporter excellent service—the kind of professionalism you afford your clients, making him feel loved and pampered? Or will you provide sloppy coordination and communication that ensures he will never want to work with you again?
Once a journalist, producer or blogger says, “yes” to interviewing your experts, your service to him or her must be superb.
Your service is the cornerstone of your brand and reputation. It dictates whether you’ll develop a lasting relationship with that journalist. Make it stellar, and reporters will keep coming back for new sources, knowing with confidence that you will deliver exactly what they need and on deadline. Make it difficult, and reporters will ignore your pitches or tell you, “I’ll pass,” when you send story ideas.
Because many reporters use email to communicate with public relations pros, here are six tips for using that channel effectively and efficiently:
1. Subject lines are a reporter’s guidepost.
Sure, creative subject lines attract attention. Stick to one subject line topic, with slight alterations as you continue your email communications, so journalists know what to look for when searching for your updates and responses in their inboxes.
For example, if your pitch is “St. Patrick’s Day Party Ideas,” keep those words in your subject line throughout your communications:
Confirming: Interview w/ John Doe—St. Patrick’s Day Party Ideas
Photos You Requested—St. Patrick’s Day Party Ideas
Answers to your follow-up Qs—St. Patrick’s Day Party Ideas
Avoid generic, meaningless subject lines such as “Following up.” Reporters are writing several stories daily. Don’t assume they’ll remember your client’s topic by spotting your name.
2. Avoid multiple exchanges.
Be mindful of the reporter’s stuffed inbox. Provide all the information in one email, so nothing is overlooked.
3. Follow the KISS rule (Keep it simple, sweetie).
Write and organize an email to a reporter with the same care you would give to writing a message to your CEO. That means:
- Short and succinct, with proper grammar and spelling.
- Use bullets. Who has time to read lengthy paragraphs?
- Give them only what they need to know. Avoid chitchat.
- Confirm how many images are needed for their stories, and send only your best.
- Pay attention to their requests for high-resolution photographs. One reporter called this her No. 1 peeve: Her photo size requirements, such as 300 dpi or 1500 pixels, are often ignored. Double-check what you’re sending to save everyone time.
- Don’t bombard them with extra stuff (a.k.a. work); if they need only one photo, send just one.
- When providing a link to an online photo gallery, flag the best ones in your email.
- Clearly label all image files, so they’re not guessing about your content or forcing them to send you another email.
- Speaking of labels, use descriptive caption-style file names such as 01-CEO-John-Doe-Eating-IceCream-GroundHog-Party.jpg, 02-CEO-John-Doe-HeadShot.jpg.
4. Use just one thread.
Keep all your conversation in one email thread. It becomes their guide to your ongoing communications. Instead of hitting reply, use the forward option, so they can easily spot where your latest exchange left off.
5. Send calendar invites.
Many reporters prefer receiving a meeting invitation from my personal online calendar. Ask whether they want to be invited, so they get a reminder about their interview with your client. The more ways you make life simpler, the better.
Plus, you can see whether they are paying attention when they accept the invitation, which ensures it appears on their calendar.
6. Don’t forget: Reminders are important.
Send a reminder email, or call the day before. Journalists are nearly always grateful when I email, and I usually get a reply. If I don’t get an email response, I’ll call. If they still forget about the interview, at least you have a paper trail in case your client asks.
Before clicking the send button, put yourself in a reporter’s shoes, and ask whether your email gives him exactly what he needs or makes more work. Eliminate their busy work, and they won’t think twice about turning to you for their next source.
Michelle Damico is principal of Michelle Damico Communications, following a 15-year journalism career at Chicago radio stations WXRT, WBEZ and WGN. She invites emails at email@example.com. A version of this article first appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.