Ever wondered how a trade journal, newspaper or magazine reporter knew to call an individual he or she quoted in an article? Industry experts (like you!) are invaluable sources of information for journalists–-providing up-to-the minute information not available anywhere else. But journalists are too busy to seek out all but the most obvious experts. Instead, they rely on contacts they've made–many of which have been initiated by business owners or company representatives.
The advantage to you of being included in articles is that it lends a third-party credibility to your message. Readers know that reporters check out the facts and seek the best information sources for their articles, so when they read something about you or your company in a publication they respect, it is usually taken very seriously.
So, even if you don't have specific news appropriate for a press release, you can continually develop relationships with key media so that you will be the one they call when they need industry information and an expert to quote. They just need to know you're out there.
Tips for Developing Relationships with Reporters
- Read publications in which you'd like to be included. Be familiar with their style, format, readership, deadlines and regular features. (Do this before you ever pick up the phone or send information to a reporter.)
- Read articles written by specific reporters to whom you'd like to pitch your ideas. Get a feel for what interests him or her.
- Understand the target audience for publications that interest you. Provide information to reporters that you know will interest their readers.
- Be aware of the world around you and understand how your industry and your company fit into the big picture. Put your information in context with current events and trends.
- Determine why you or someone else in your company should be considered an industry expert or qualified source of information. Think of your information as a product and discover its competitive advantage.
- Think of your role in the relationship with a reporter as one of helping him or her do their job–to write the most informative, unbiased article possible.
- Many reporters attend industry trade shows to gain lots of information about an industry in a short span of time. When you attend trade shows, make an effort to meet reporters, offer them a press kit and follow up after the show. You might also want to set up an appointment (before the event) to have a brief meeting with the reporter at the event.
- Oftentimes trade journals host booths at industry trade shows to pick up additional subscribers. When their representatives aren't talking with potential subscribers, visit with them to learn what's on that trade journal's horizon, which of their editors would be most interested in your press releases, etc. Ask if any of their editors are at the trade show. If so, try to talk with them briefly, learn about their interests, establish a rapport and hand them your press kit.
- Be ready to refer a reporter to industry associations, research firms, industry analysts or other experts who follow your industry. If you refer a reporter to someone, make a call to alert him or her that the reporter will be calling.
- If your business is highly technical or loaded with industry jargon, make sure you tell your story in lay terms.
- Develop a short (one-or-two page) company "backgrounder" and keep it updated. A backgrounder is just that–background information on your company. You might also develop fact sheets on your products or services. These are fact-oriented—not sales literature. Send either a company backgrounder, fact sheet or both when requested.
- Once you've developed relationships with reporters, return their calls promptly. It's rare when a reporter isn't on a tight deadline. He or she is looking for a quick and credible source of information. If you don't call back, your competitor might be included in the article instead of you! Additionally, you might be taken out of the reporter's “people to call” file and you won't have another opportunity to contribute.
- Practice before making a call. Rehearse what you'd like to say with a friend or co-worker. You may know everything there is to know about a subject, but until you sound like you do, you won't be taken seriously.
- Never, ever call a reporter to chat or to let him or her know what's going on with your company in vague and general terms. Have a purpose for your call–have something to offer.