How to Approach a Journalist

May 2, 2011

By Rachel
PR professionals and journalists have a love-hate relationship. We need each other, and yet, the ways in which we do our jobs can either ease or impede the relationships between us. So what can we, in the PR field, do to change this? I recently listened to George Donnelly, editor-in-chief of the Boston Business Journal, give his insight about how to best approach a journalist. Some of his tips include:
Do your homework
An editor may be able to point you to the right contact, but he is often not the person to pitch. Find out who is, and take the time to look at reporter's past articles. You will gain credibility if you can demonstrate you know what the reporter covers and why she writes on those topics.
Don't expect immediate results
If you have the right story at the right time, that's great. But it's also rare. PR professionals tend to expect coverage to appear immediately after a story is pitched, but that's not always in line with a journalist's timeline. Remember that forming long-term relationships is just as important.
Understand how journalists work
Sometimes the best PR professionals are those that have crossed over from a newsroom, only because they understand the environment and know what reporters are looking for in their stories. For the rest of us, keep in mind that journalists work on a deadline. Also, although reporters are often responsible for bringing story ideas to editors, the best reporters do not rely solely on PR pitches to craft stories.
Create a mutually beneficial relationship
PR professionals want journalists to cover their clients, but how do we benefit journalists? Remember that you are dealing with a person first, and try to reciprocate courtesies in some way. Ask the reporter what he plans to work on and see if you can offer help.

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