Developing relationships with writers is similar to developing relationships with romantic partners: Both take time, effort, clear communication, and, most important, mutual respect.
We notice them.
With romantic partners, we may notice them for the first time across a restaurant, or through a mutual friend’s introduction. Similarly, we might notice a writer’s work while doing research, or maybe a colleague suggests him or her as a professional connection.
Either way, you never approach right away demanding attention—to be your new significant other, or to include a client in an upcoming piece.
Think about what you would do if someone came up to you in a bar and said, “Hi, let’s go back to my place, now.” That approach is brash and rude. If you disregard the other’s thoughts and opinions, it will place you on the permanent “avoid at all costs” list. Rather, it’s more polite and more effective to approach with an interesting comment.
We creep on them.
We want to get to know this person enough to determine whether they are a good fit before we introduce ourselves. So, as any 20-something would, we creep. We read all their blog posts, articles, Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, and their LinkedIn profile. We need to know them very well to figure out whether they are the right person for the story, or for ourselves.
We don’t look solely to the Internet for information. We ask around. Just as someone would ask their friends for the dirty details on a new romantic interest, we ask our colleagues whether they’ve worked with a specific journalist before. People want to know what they’re getting into.
Will the journalist meet their deadlines? Will my date be late picking me up? Are they reliable? What is their preferred mode of communication? Are they a texter or emailer, or are they old school and prefer to pick up the phone?
Also, canned pitches—just like tired pickup lines—will waste your time. They don’t highlight why you are special, nor pique his or her interest, so you’re left with no results. Be original.
We make an approach.
This is where our creeping comes into play. We tell writers exactly what they want to hear in the tone they want to hear it. We have the advantage here: We want them to like us, and we have the ammunition to make that happen.
They like humor? We can be funny, and look at this great campaign our client is starting. They’re the dark, thoughtful type? We can be deep and use thought-provoking imagery of our client’s work. Once we get them to initially commit to the first meeting, or first date, the hard part is over.
We gain mutual trust.
The No. 1 thing that is sure to send a person fleeing? Lies. We never, ever, lie or embellish ourselves (or our client) to be anything that we aren’t. If you lie to someone and they find out, you know the person on the receiving end is going to tell people in their circle.
Poof! There go 10 dating prospects, 10 writing prospects. Just. Like. That.
We tell them everything they want to know. When they ask, we provide necessary information in a timely manner; stalling the delivery of important info is sure to annoy them, and the relationship will quickly fizzle out.
We help each other out.
Everyone is busy. Writers are trying to make their deadlines, and things get stressful if they don’t have time to research a given topic. So, we help them out. This isn’t a one-way street either; they’re helping us out, too, either by writing an article or being a good support system.
For writers, we’ll give them all the information that we have and find anything else they may need in order to write their article. For partners, they may be working on a project and don’t have time to make something for the office potluck, so we’ll pitch in and make our award-winning cookies. We also become a source of advice for each other.
We each have eyes on different trends, and we may ask journalists whether a specific pitch idea is on trend, whereas they may ask us when the best time to visit the area would be. It’s a symbiotic relationship similar to how we relate to a romantic partner, or any successful partnership for that matter.
Either way, we’re helping them out because we think they’re cool people. The easier we make life for them, the more excited they’ll be to work with us or hang out with us in the future.
A relationship is born.
Even after the story is written, or after we’ve passed the first few dates, if it’s a good match, the relationship doesn’t end there. We keep in touch, keep updated on each other’s work and clients, ask about their personal drama, and eventually get to the point where we can call them up and say, “Hey, can you help me out?”
From noticing a prospect, to creating initial contact, all the way to developing a committed partnership, romantic relationships aren’t all that different from media relationships.