I just came back from the Open Compute Project Summit in San Jose. For those of you who don’t know, Open Compute is a project that was started by Facebook in 2011 to democratize the development of computer hardware and enable businesses to create enormous efficiencies in their processes and, in turn, better serve their customers – essentially, all of us who use the internet. It’s a very cool, altruistic project.
I was there as the lead PR contact for a client who is heavily involved in the project. My purpose was to basically be the point person for any media activities that took place. As you might imagine, this is an initiative that has a heavy following amongst the tech and business media. Before leaving for the trip, I pinged a few of the reporters who were on the invitee list to see if they’d be interested in meeting with myself and a couple executives I was with. The goal was twofold: one, to talk about some of the neat stuff we are doing with the project, and secondly, to build relationships with these very influential reporters who are mostly based on the other side of the country. I’d dealt with a couple of them over the phone and via email, but had never met them in person.
We were fortunate enough to meet with most of the folks I had reached out to, and a few others who we ran into. We spent a few minutes with each reporter, first telling them about our contributions to OCP, but then using our time to learn more about the reporters, personally AND professionally, and see how we could be helpful to them going forward.
While it’s likely that no stories will come as a result of our meetings, these efforts will undoubtedly pay dividends going forward. The meetings not only put faces to names and gave us a chance to promote our work, but they also forged relationships. Relationships with members of the media are not created through email pitches or phone calls. They are created the same way our everyday relationships are – through human interaction. And remember, as a PR pro, you are only as strong as the relationships you have.
Here are three keys to helping create real relationships with your media targets:
Research Your Targets:
Nowadays, with the internet, social media and PR software, PR pros have the ability to find out everything they need to know about the journalists they are trying to reach. We have access to the stories they write, the beats they cover, and even personal information through their social profiles. Use this stuff to your advantage! You can carpet bomb a dozens of reporters and luck out with a handful of stories, but that does nothing to guarantee you future success. Every squirrel finds a nut. Target your reporters intelligently. They know when you are spamming them, trust me.
Make a Connection:
When you reach out to a reporter for the first time, don’t just give them a sales pitch. Tell them why you are reaching out to them. Maybe you saw a story that they wrote that made you think they’d be interested in what you have to tell them. Maybe you came across a post on one of their social profiles. A year or so back, I had an Aha! moment when I finally broke through with a reporter from the New York Times. I’d pitched said reporter several times, with fingers crossed, but to no avail. I never heard so much as a “No, thanks.” back from them. One day, I saw a clever tweet this reporter had just posted about a movie. I happened to be pitching something that day and was planning to reach out to this reporter again, with high hopes, but little expectations. I decided to open my pitch with a reference to their tweet, and you know what – they responded! Minutes later! It resulted in a conversation on the subject I’d pitched and subsequently, an interview with an executive from the company I was working for. I had made a human connection that resulted in a professional win.
Meet in Person!:
We live our lives behind computers or on mobile devices and we’re able to get by. I work with a ton of folks remotely and will never meet a good percentage of them in person. But, there is no replacement for in-person interaction. It breaks down all barriers and really is the key to forming a strong relationship. Whenever possible, make an effort to meet you’re A-List reporters in person. It doesn’t have to be related to a particular campaign or media tour either. I find informal meetings over a cup of coffee or a quick bite to eat some of the most effective. When you make an effort to connect with these people on a personal level and not just when you want something it shows that you care, and also that you know what you are doing.
Less than half of the time I spent with reporters over the last couple of days was talking about company business or things that we’ll hopefully get coverage on in the future. But you can rest assure that these meetings helped forge and strengthen relationships that will result in tangible results in the future. When I call these guys, they will pick up. When I email them, they will respond.
What are your thoughts on and tips to building relationships with the media and influencers?