Here’s a commonly overlooked opportunity for building relationships with media: Help them with stories you didn’t pitch.
I know one PR pro who did this so well that once she fielded a call from a reporter asking if she knew how to get certain (nonconfidential) financial info from a different company. Our intrepid colleague still doesn’t know why the reporter called her, but she tracked it down anyway.
Another example: An agency pro was working with a transportation writer. He mentioned he needed to talk to someone who had been injured in a car accident while traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday. Although this story had no bearing on her client, the PR pro used her network within the worldwide agency to quickly find three such people willing to talk to him.
Do you think that reporter paid attention the next time she emailed or called him?
Here’s one simple way you can implement this helpful approach. When you see an influential journalist looking for a source to speak about something beyond what your organization can address, find someone anyway. You know your industry — who would be qualified and effective on that topic? Maybe you’re aware of a university professor or think-tank analyst. Go the extra mile to find contact information, and then share it with the influencer.
To be clear, this kind of assistance doesn’t guarantee us any coverage. It’s not a quid pro quo. What we earn is simply attention — the media members we help are more likely to give us the time of day the next time we have something to offer, not merely to return the favor, but rather because we’ve demonstrated we know a bit about their topic and that we understand how demanding their jobs are. We better make sure we still “bring our A game” and suggest good angles that matter to their audiences.
You can determine media needs by:
- Watching their social media posts to see what they are working on.
- Monitoring their editorial calendars.
- Simply asking, “What’s coming up that you’re working on?”
Finally, a qualifier: You obviously don’t do this for every reporter who has needs. Focus on those who reach audiences that are strategic for your organization. And if you help a reporter or blogger out a couple of times who doesn’t respond to your outreach, don’t get mad. Just move on and apply your helpful approach to someone who may be more appreciative.
Michael Smart teaches PR professionals how to dramatically increase their positive media placements. He’s engaged regularly by organizations like General Motors, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Georgia Tech to help their media relations teams reach new levels of success. Get more media pitching knowledge from Smart here.