Have you ever been completely surprised by something someone did and it took a minute to get your equilibrium back?
I’ve been promoting authors and books for years now and every now and then something happens that completely takes me aback.
In the early aughts, I was working with a wonderful author and business leader to publicize his upcoming book that was coming out in just a couple of weeks. All the galleys had gone out, interviews were set up and when I asked him for his calendar, I got the surprise of my life.
“I guess I should tell you that I’m going to be gone for three weeks beginning two days after publication date for a cruise in Antarctica.”
Not only was that not a great plan, but he waited until just before his launch to tell me. I’m sure he didn’t purposely withhold that information (at least I choose to believe that). He didn’t realize that I needed to know that to create a launch that would work.
Quick thinking and fancy footwork was in order, and fortunately, I was able to move the interviews out several weeks. Not ideal but sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. He wasn’t going to cancel the trip, and I wouldn’t have asked that of him anyway. How often are you going to go to Antarctica?
The point of this story speaks to many different issues, but the focus of today’s hack is building relationships with your media contacts. Oh, and by the way, in case you missed last week’s feature on PR you can catch up here.
Building relationships will never ever go out of style. I don’t care what technology does, what our culture does, or how many people say, “AI will be doing everything for us soon.” Relationships matter, and I have found in this day and age of hyper connectedness, while it looks like everyone is “our friend,” I assure you that is not the case. In fact, with hyper connectivity it becomes even more important to build that connection.
Career expert Lois Frankel, PhD., once said to me, “The time to build a relationship is before you need it.” This is so true.
You want to build your relationships BEFORE you start pitching (if you can) so you are never cold calling. Sometimes timing gets in the way of this however, so an alternative is to study your contact so that when you do pitch you can spell out exactly why they would be interested, and point to other stories they’ve done to show how you fit into the mix.
And when it comes to building those relationships, the one thing that matters above all else is this: You must be trustworthy.
I know. So simple. Everyone knows that, right? Yet, far too few people are actually doing it, and even if you are, we can always do it better.
If a journalist or reporter knows you are credible and trustworthy, he or she is much more likely to pursue your tips and suggestions. They need to know that you know what makes a solid newsworthy story or feature piece. (Do you?)
They need to know you won’t turn all salesy on them. (You would never do that, right?)
Having data or research to share is always a plus, and speaks to your trustworthiness. You’re sending pertinent, correct information that helps them do their jobs. One journalist said, “I have a great deal of time for those who contact me with research or a study that unveiled data that no one could find anywhere else.” Be aware that this is gold – as long as it fits their beat.
Of course, you then need to be prepared to deliver on your pitch. If you got a reporter’s attention then you need to be timely with any follow-up requests. Sometimes they will be demanding and want a great deal. This is good! This is the moment when the relationship is built—or when it all falls flat.
I’ve been told by several different journalists that “there is nothing more frustrating than getting a great pitch, and then a PR person doesn’t respond to your follow-up when you’re on deadline, or an interview source isn’t available until three weeks later.” (Another reason for knowing about trips to Antarctica so it’s addressed early, or the pitch is sent at a better time.)
The bottom line: The reason I was able to move those interviews easily for the author who went to Antarctica without straining the connections is because I had strong relationships with them. There was trust there that was built over time. To do that, it starts with finding out who the right contact is at the publication, and then developing a relationship with them. Provide good, solid story ideas, keep your commitments, and follow through. Be trustworthy.
To your success!
P.S. Happy holidays to you and your family. For those of you who celebrate Christmas, it’s coming up next Saturday! Here is some music of the season. Enjoy!
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