Building Relationships with Reporters: More Tips

By on Thursday, July 21, 2011

Yesterday I offered some tips for building relationships with journalists so you can share story ideas and talk with them about topics that matter to your nonprofit. Here’s a few more tips.

Tip #3: Be willing to be helpful. Seriously, it is not hard to be helpful to reporters. If they need help understanding statistics or reports or policy matters. Figure it out and try to help. Don’t assume that they have time to tease out all of the intricacies of  the issues that you probably know backwards and forwards. If they ask for help finding sources, offer up a few ideas. It is not hard to be a decent person.

One way to do this, is to create a set of tip sheets on statistics or legislation your organization cares about, that you post in your online press room. Keep your statistics current and updated. That online press room is available 24/7. Hopefully, you sleep and have a life. Having that information out there helps reporters who may be time-strapped to get something done.

Tip #4: Be willing to not always be in the story, and think about long-term relationship-building with journalists with reporters. Here’s a good example. On Monday I got a call from a major international radio network seeking help locating someone for an interview. The story angle really did not intersect with any of the areas my clients work on, even though it was a similar topic. So I suggested he call a contact at another organization, that I don’t represent, but that I knew had recently testified to Congress on this very matter. I knew they could likely drum up an interviewee for him in a few minutes.

What I’ve done by doing that, is built a relationship with a reporter who knows, hey, this pr person may not have had what I needed, but she helped me get to where I needed to go for this story that was on deadline to finish up. And when I need to pitch another story on a similar topic. I’ll reach out to that reporter. Nine times out of 10, he won’t be a jerk and blow me off. He’ll at least listen to the pitch and be  up front with me about whether or not he can cover it.

Tip #5: Try on their shoes for a couple of minutes. It never ceases to amaze me how often people try to work with the media, without trying to understand their business and the deadline pressures that journalists work under on a daily basis. Many reporters are willing to meet with you just to hear your story ideas and what your organization works on, if you work in an area of interest to them. They know having a rolodex (typically electronic nowadays) of potential sources is vital to helping them do their jobs. I’ve done coffee (we all buy our own, don’t try to treat the reporter) with many reporters to talk about active stories or to pitch ideas and share about an organization.

Everyone wants to know what you think.

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