Every PR professional welcomes the opportunity for networking, getting face-to-face with relevant journalists, building relationships and understanding what they are looking for with regards to ideas and material.
However, against a backdrop of shrinking newsrooms, an increasing number of key writers are choosing, or being forced down, the freelance route, making such opportunities hard to come by. The answer to this? Dedicated media conferences, bringing communications professionals and journalists together, have become increasingly important.
But, how do you successfully grab the attention of key journalists when everyone else there is trying to do the same? Here are BlueSky’s top five tips to help you achieve just that:
Research, research, research!
Thankfully, you will know in advance which journalists will be attending the conference, so do your research into what they write about, who they write for and what kind of topics they cover. Search their Twitter, a lot of the time they tweet about what they are interested in. This way you can know which client’s stories to pitch to which journalist, there’s no point pitching to a journalist about something they don’t write about, it’s a waste of their time and yours.
A little bit of flattery doesn’t go amiss either, read some of their work, pick out a piece that you like and tell them. It shows that you have a genuine interest in what they publish and builds a relationship with them for you to begin with.
Help them out
The best form of networking is showing how you can help the journalist rather than how they can help you. Journalists are often under pressure to constantly provide top quality content, so tell them that you can give them interesting research, or that you can provide them with an academic comment to add to a piece they are already working on. This selfless approach works best because journalists will be more willing to let you help them; they’ll trust you more because you’re being genuine.
Don’t be too promotional
Don’t be too promotional, journalists won’t want to write an advert. This is where knowing your clients’ research will help you, so make sure that you do a credibility check first. Is your clients research telling the world something new? Is it providing a different angle on something that is big in the news cycle? Journalists won’t care about your institution’s research unless it creates something interesting to discuss.
You need to know everything about your client and certain pieces of research that you will be pitching, you don’t want to look stupid when a journalist asks you a question and you don’t know the answer. Looking like you know what you are doing will show that you are a good PR professional.
Stay away from using words like ‘unique’ to describe your clients research as it will set off alarms in any journalist’s head, the same could be said for adjectives like ‘best’, ‘leader’ and most. You don’t want to feed the journalist false praise about work or actions. You’ll be seen as time-wasting and journalists certainly don’t like that.
Don’t monopolise their time
A journalist’s time is precious, so use their time wisely and don’t waste it, knowing when your time is up is vital. You want to come across as someone that is helpful, informed and professional; not a bore who waffles and gives off the impression of a borderline stalker.
From the journalist’s perspective, this will make you look more appealing to work with as they know you can offer a quick turnaround and won’t waste time in the future.
It’s a date!
Attempt to establish a definite commitment on your part to do something helpful or useful. It is a lot more effective to have an actual reason to get in touch rather than just being another of the 50 people that they have no memory of. Try and connect with them on LinkedIn so you have a way of maintaining contact, this also allows them to see the work that you do and other journalists that you have worked with.
So, know the people you are trying to form a relationship with and show how you can benefit them, use the time efficiently, don’t overstay your welcome and finally, come away with a definite commitment to do something useful giving a reason to get in touch. If you do these things, then you will get the best out of any media conference.