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How PR Pros Cultivate Relationships with Reporters

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Regan Hartford SVP Sandrine Sebag with WFSB-TV Anchor Irene O’Connor

I recently gave a presentation before a group of PR students and tried to explain the ropes of media relationships. Even though it’s been more than 15 years since I started working in PR if one thing hasn’t changed across the media landscape it is how publicists interact with journalists to “sell” their stories and especially how reporters view you as a valued source. The relationships you establish with your media contacts are key in making you a successful publicist.

Students were most fascinated by how you create those strategies and ultimately how you establish yourself as a credible source in the vast – and sometimes cruel – PR world.  To a seasoned PR professional, this information isn’t anything new. But it’s always helpful to keep these tips fresh in your mind – and it seemed to satisfy the student’s thirst for knowledge:

  • Be confident: Call reporters with specific suggestions about stories on which your clients are qualified to offer expert opinion. The more specific your suggestion, the better. Your goal is to get your clients on the reporters’ contact list as expert sources to be called at the next opportunity
  • Offer interesting angles: Nothing more frustrating for a journalist to receive a boring press release with no meat to chew on.  Think about your positioning before sending press releases.
  • Do your homework: Interacting with the media successfully means understanding how stories are told. Read, listen, and watch news reporters and how experts are used to move a story forward and how concisely they can frame a point.
  • React quickly: News, by definition, moves quickly. Your client might have the most expertise on a given topic, but if you’re not accessible to reporters on deadline, you won’t become a reliable source. If you provide them with quick access to a spokesperson (and in some cases, help educate them on a complicated topic) while respecting their deadline, they will love you for it and will work with you again and again.
  • Be Social Connect with reporters on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and subscribe to their feed. It’s amazing how a simple RT or comment can build rapport with reporters. And social media has made it so much easier to follow journalist friends. Also,  be sure to invite them to an event you are attending and that may be of interest to them.  A reporter who sees you on social media or at events around town will remember you and the clients you represent more easily.
  • Be resourceful: With the ever-shrinking nature of resources the media can provide itself, it is now more important than ever for PR pros to offer more tangible assistance. Be ready to provide b-roll to TV, submit a (by-lined) column from an expert, and supply high-res photos on a tight deadline.

Your most important “job” as a publicist is to know how to foster relationship with journalists. Reporters need PR folks more than ever. Shrinking editorial staff means reporters have to do more. Less time to fact check. Less time to track down sources.  Establish value by recognizing their reporting, providing quality sources and be there when they need you.  These tips will help you get press for your clients – and ultimately reporters will not only see you as a resource, but as industry peers.

-Sandrine Sebag, Senior Vice President, Regan Communications, Hartford

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