How to Become a Journalist’s Source (Part III): Developing a Relationship with a Journalist

Barbara DiggsContent Marketing, Content Strategy0 Comments

So, you’ve successfully made contact with a journalist and she’s interviewed you for the article.  End of story?  It shouldn’t be. Staying on a journalist’s radar screen is a smart plan. Why not become the first person a reporter thinks of when she – or another writer friend – needs a quote or information from someone in your industry?  That’s fast, easy and free publicity.

Here are 7 tips to keep in mind when developing a relationship with a journalist:

1.       Do your research.  Nothing turns journalists off more than receiving unsolicited information completely irrelevant to their specialization.  Research the writer, find out what he writes about; examine the style of his articles. That way, you can tailor future communications to his specific interests and increase the chance of being used as a source in the future.

2.       Offer only interesting, newsworthy information.  You’ve probably seen the word “newsworthy” bandied about with respect to providing information to the media.  Don’t discount it as overused jargon.  Before you contact a journalist with information, ask yourself two questions:

(i)                  what makes this information interesting and unique?
(ii)                why would this information be useful and relevant to this journalist?

If you can’t answer these questions, it’s probably not newsworthy.  If you feel assured that the information would be of interest, go ahead and send it.   But make sure the relevance and uniqueness of the news is clearly conveyed. If the newsworthiness of the info isn’t immediately evident, it’ll be deleted.  Worse, if it happens more than once, the journalist may put you on a mental blacklist.

3.       Think beyond yourself.  Don’t only contact the journalist with news about your business.  Prove your resourcefulness by occasionally passing on interesting facts and information related to the journalist’s beat or specialty. (e.g., “Hi – I read your story about the city-dwelling field mice and wondered if you saw this recent report showing that 30% of field mice are carriers of the plague! Is a wave of Black Death on the horizon? Here’s the link to the report.  Hope you find it useful.)   No, she may not use the information but if it’s good stuff, she’ll likely remember you in the future.

4.       Comment on the writer’s workThere’s no better way to get the attention of a writer than to comment on his writing.   Don’t be falsely complementary, but if you’ve read an article of his that you like – say so!  If you think he left out an important point or should consider another angle, mention it. It might initiate an interesting discussion.

5.       Be selective in your communications.  Don’t email your journalist every single time something you consider interesting comes down the pipeline.  Offer only the choicest, juiciest, most relevant information.  You want to be remembered — but not as a pest.

6.  Follow up on earlier interviews and discussions.  A few months after your interview (or weeks in the case of newspaper reporters), drop the reporter a line to ask whether the story you were interviewed for was  published, and, if so, whether it received interesting feedback.  Tell the writer that you enjoyed speaking to her, and that you would be happy to discuss your area of expertise again with her in the future.

7.       Understand the rules of the game.  When working with a journalist, you need to know there’s no guarantee that:

(i)          you’ll be mentioned in a story, even after an extensive interview;
(ii)         the information you most wanted to convey will end up in the story;
(iii)        the story will ever make it to print.

It can be disappointing not to be quoted or to receive only a fleeting mention after taking the time to be interviewed, but remember that the story is not being written for you or to promote your business.  Writers want to produce the best story possible. If the information you’ve provided doesn’t fit into the final shape of the story – or there’s not enough space for it – it won’t make it in. You won’t endear yourself to a journalist if you complain that you weren’t mentioned, or that the point you wanted to make wasn’t included.

What tips do you have for building relationships with journalists?

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