It’s simple: media members and media outlet gatekeepers are more likely to take your call or open your email if they know you. And when they need something (information, a quote, a phone number) from you, they won’t hesitate to call.
A national PR news website this week posted an item about a New York PR firm’s “Media Mixer,” to which they invited select media contacts for beverages and conversation. Such an event provides an opportunity to each group to share needs and concerns as well as, yes, shoptalk and gossip. This particular event, incidentally, resulted in one of the firm’s clients being booked on a national morning cable news show.
A Facebook photo posted a few days ago showed a going away party for a St. Louis TV news reporter. Among the dozen or so people in the photo were several media colleagues and an executive with a local PR firm. You can be sure that when this PR person calls one of the reporters or producers in the group in the future, that call will be answered or returned.
How can a PR pro connect with media types? Start with social media. Follow them on Twitter, send a Facebook friend request and/or connect via LinkedIn. Don’t just follow: respond, retweet, comment, engage. On several occasions I have reached out to a media contact and had that person mention something I had recently posted on Twitter. By noting a media individual’s personal passions, you can personalize the email you send or the voice mail message you leave. Social media allow you to engage with media folk in a context other than pitching for coverage. When you do call, your social media connection can serve as an icebreaker.
Let’s mention lunch. Taking a media person to lunch means more than just paying for his or her food and beverage. It gives you the chance to talk about your work and your clients and learn more about the media person and his or her media outlet. I do not suggest inviting a media contact to lunch and then engaging in serious pitching. But it’s certainly okay to mention things about your clients, including developments that may be occurring in the near future.
As one with backgrounds and current interests on both sides (I host the weekly Food Talk STL radio show), I can attest to the value of PR and media people knowing one another personally as well as professionally. It’s a good thing for both groups.