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Reaching editors and reporters is easier than ever; meaning it is harder than ever to develop a great relationship with editors and reporters. The average reporter receives dozens of emails every day from companies hoping to promote their products. That doesn't mean you can't build a great relationship with members of the media and as a result receive free publicity; it does mean you have to take the right approach. Reporters are constantly looking for great stories; they want to write or broadcast about interesting companies, products, services, and ideas.
The key is to focus on the right media outlets and the right members of the media. To create a win-win partnership, first look for individual reporters who cover topics and issues relevant to your company. (It should go without saying, but it makes no sense to try to build a relationship with a sports reporter if your company sells replacement windows.) Read their stories. See what they tend to be interested in. Get a feel for the angles they take. Most reporters will not write about your new products just because you ask them, so don't expect them to. Your goal is to become a source they can rely on for quotes, background information, opinions, or even breaking news.
Let's start with the basics. When you consider contacting journalists, remember:
Make the Approach
Getting mentioned in the news or in the right publication is not just great public relations but is also great marketing. Media coverage confers legitimacy and prestige upon your company and your products. So take the time to make a great approach to reporters, editors, and other media sources.
Step One: Tailor Your Message. Read the publication, find the right reporter, and create a unique pitch. One size definitely does not fit all. Show you know the publication and the reporter by mentioning similar articles. If you can't find a way to tailor your message, you're trying to pitch the wrong reporter or media source.
Step Two: Make the Reporter's Job Easier. Don't just describe your product, service, or news, show the reporter how it fits into a larger context. Help them understand market trends or consumer trends. Provide context for how your news is relevant to a broad audience. Provide facts and figures that make subsequent research easier.
Step Three: Show How the Other Half Lives. A great story has depth and balance; help the reporter understand how customers can or do use your product. Offer to set up interviews with customers. Provide case studies if you have them. The more information you can provide, the easier the reporter's job. Reporters are busy people, too, making their job easier increases your chances of success.
Step Four: Save the Attachments for Later. Most people don't open attachments from people they don't know. (Some won't even open the email itself.) Provide enough information in the body of your email to attract interest; once the reporter responds you can send other materials.
Step Five: Follow-up. Don't continue to contact a reporter that doesn't respond, but if they do respond, follow-up on any commitments you make to provide information, interviews, etc. You need the reporter more than he or she needs you; again, make it easy.
Plant the Seeds
Even if you don't have compelling news to share, you may be able to become a valuable contact for the media. Reporters need sources that can provide information, reactions, or opinions about the topics they cover. Think of it this way: a reporter is sometimes only as good as his or her Rolodex. Do your homework and find the right media outlets and journalists, and then send your contact information along with a brief list of subjects where you can provide knowledge or insight. For example, if your company manufactures replacement windows, a reporter may be able to use you to provide information on housing trends, new home sales, the renovation and rehabilitation market, etc. Journalists need good sources, and while they may find you, why not give them a helping hand? The relationship you establish today could turn into valuable press down the road.
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