Too many times, we hear complaints from our journalist friends about communications agencies: “This one guy offered the same exclusive to a competing publication -- I’ll never work with him again!” “If I get another generic email clearly being blasted to every reporter, I’m putting that agency in my spam filter.” Journalists need a good scoop on sexy, breaking news stories, while communications professionals need to help bring those scoops to journalists. But we believe that requires establishing trust and value ahead of any major press announcement. Here’s some of the ways we do that:
1. Read Reporters’ Articles. This one might seem obvious, but according to many of our reporter colleagues, it’s sadly overlooked by a lot of comms pros. We aim to always know what reporters write about, and have a basic understanding of their beat. For reporters we pitch often, that also means reading all of their publication, every day.
2. Be a Resource Above and Beyond Client Needs. We think it’s important to offer much more to reporters than pitches from our clients. When we identify an interesting trend or find some compelling data in an industry report, for example, we often share it with reporters, whether or not it has any direct connection to a specific client.
3. Send Original, Personalized E-mails. Mass-mailing the same formulaic, boilerplate e-mail shows a lack of care for both reporters and clients. (And journalists at “rival” publications are often friends, in any case, and can easily establish among themselves which agencies are blasting the same email to multiple reporters.) Since we do our homework (per tip #1), we value personalizing every e-mail we send to every reporter, relating it to their recent articles, demonstrating critical thought, and offering value to the beats they cover.
4) Be Genuine. Be Human. We value interacting with reporters as we would with any other interesting person we meet everyday. When we have common interests beyond tech, we share them. That also means being aware that reporters have lives outside their jobs. So for instance, when a reporter notes on Twitter that they’re on vacation, traveling, or “slammed with stories,” we know it’s time NOT to pitch them.
Another thing often overlooked: When a reporter changes jobs, we reach out and congratulate them on the move -- no accompanying pitch, just a common courtesy.
5) Pick. Up. The. Phone. Tech reporters get hundreds more e-mails a day than they do phone calls, even though calling is often the better way to get a message across. But as someone who’s managed accounts for years, I can tell you the number one fear of PR professionals is calling reporters. “I’m afraid to call them. I don’t know what to say.” I had a former boss who took a hands-on approach to this: He’d sit junior staff in a room and have them practice their phone pitches, peppering them with questions, and then give them feedback. Bottom line: it takes practice explaining why you’re calling in under 30-60 seconds. But there’s nothing worse than wasting a reporter’s time. (For a similar reason, it’s a good idea to e-mail or text a quick “Got time for a quick call now?” message first, as not to interrupt them in the middle of a deadline.)
These are just some of the ways we try to be more valuable to tech reporters, and we’re always learning. So if you happen to be a journalist reading these, we’d love your feedback in comments.