PR Tips: How to Build Rapport With Reporters

Among many other topics during last week’s workshop, “PR Secrets From a Media Insider,” one was on how to develop rapport with members of the media.

In a nutshell, here are some basic steps:

1. Pay attention to the reporter’s prior work.
2. Pay a (sincere) compliment.
3. Respectfully challenge a reporter’s work.
4. Offer a story suggestion that does not benefit you in the least.

The brief video below, from the PR Secrets workshop at the Carleton Hotel in Oak Park, Ill., touches on these points:

The Art of Contacting Reporters By Phone

For the first time over a six-month span, encompassing story pitches for four different clients, I reached one particular reporter yesterday at the Chicago Sun-Times.

She had never responded to any of my prior messages, neither my well-crafted and eminently timely e-mails nor my professional and succint voicemails directing her attention to those e-mails.

Of course, when she picked up the phone this time around, I read her the riot act, chastising her for being so inconsiderate and failing to recognize a helpful publicist when one was right under her nose.

(If you believe that tale of mine, then let me recommend you trust all your life savings with my financial adviser, Bernie Madoff.)

In reality, after introducing myself to the reporter, I asked if she had 30 seconds to hear why I was touching base. Politely, she replied that she needed to make a phone call right away.

“I understand entirely,” I said. “I just wanted to let you know that I’ll be sending you a story idea that I think you’d be interested in. I’ll follow up with you another time.”

Before I hung up, she hastened to make sure I knew her e-mail address.

This vignette underscores three points I make regularly to my clients, as well as audiences that attend my PR workshops:

1. As the individual making the story suggestion, you want to get off the phone before the reporter, editor or producer really wishes you were out of their face.

This no-nonsense, fast-paced style respects the reality of the media member’s time, and it sets you apart from the many long-winded blowhards that place a stress on their already-burdened schedule. Asking if a reporter is on deadline signals to them that you know their world, and sets you on a path toward establishing that you are a peer worthy of respect and consideration.

2. Rarely do you get a reporter to agree to pursue a story in the phone call. He or she will always want to review more information before making such a decision.

So the phone call’s purpose is to plant a promising seed (that a follow-up e-mail will nurture in short order), not bring home the harvest a few moments after the seed has gone into the soil.

3. Except in rare instances, whether your call results in a conversation or only a voicemail, always be ready to follow up immediately (within 60 seconds is a good idea) with a well-written news pitch or release.

Securing media coverage is the result of winning small victories along the way, and one such triumph is having the reporter refrain from deleting your e-mail without giving it more than a glance.

If they recognize the e-mail as coming from a professional who also took a few moments to phone them, then your story’s chances of moving beyond the embryonic stage climb exponentially.

For related PR advice, see Inside Edge PR Tips: 4 Myths To Combat Along the Way.

Triblocal Gets Much More Local For Clientele

The other day, I posted a news release for the Illinois Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine on

You can see the release (“Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine: Not All Providers Are Created Equal”) here. It joins dozens of other Inside Edge PR news releases (written, as all my work is written, in journalistic style) on the site.

Soon, many more Inside Edge PR releases will be on the site, as the Tribune expands its reach to include Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park–right in the heart of so much of my client roster.

Though its focus on western and southern suburbs has typically been beyond most of my clientele’s reach until now, Triblocal has been a solid go-to resource for nearly a year. The site is easy to use, has a broad reach and, of course, is connected to the top newspaper in the region.

Make no mistake–the site does not draw anywhere near the traffic that flocks to the flagship paper’s site at Chicago

But clients report receiving visits to their site from the Triblocal pages, and the pieces also frequently pop up on Page 1 of Google searches for various organizations, businesses and individuals that I’ve publicized. That all has a real, if difficult-to-measure, impact on a company or organization’s bottom line.

One quick case in point: during the recent dog wedding in Oak Park that I promoted (I Do, Doggone It!), I asked a gentleman who trekked from Glen Ellyn to Oak Park how he learned of the event.

He first replied, “The Tribune.” When I mentioned that I’d not seen it publicized there, he clarified that he meant

Rarely will I develop a news release with Triblocal in mind–it’s simply one of many spots where I send or, in the user-generated website’s case, post it. However, at bare minimum, tapping into the site provides an online home for stories that might otherwise not get published anywhere else.

In that regard, it becomes a kind of online adjunct to an organization’s website and overall marketing effort.

Video Persuades, Supports Media

Today there is a nice human-interest profile on Keeli Mickus (pictured with son, Hank) in the Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest.

In addition to reporter Terry Dean’s story, on its web site the Wednesday Journal prominently displayed three videos that I shot during an appointment that Keeli, a patient of Scheck & Siress, had about a month ago.
Posting those videos complements the writing, and not enough media take advantage of the opportunity. Fortunately, the WJ has some progressive, 21st-century minds at the helm.

Passing along links to supporting videos, as I did in this instance, carries a two-fold purpose: to persuade and to support.

First, videos more fully explain whatever story suggestion I’m making. The initial audience is the media member I’m trying to persuade to pursue the story.

Second, if a news outlet decides to pursue the story, the videos provide a relevant, supportive resource that it can share with its audience.

There’s still another advantage to shooting, and uploading, videos: in doing so, you are not putting all of your eggs in the traditional media basket. Instead, you create a direct communication link to your audience–in this case, prospective patients of Scheck & Siress. If and when media coverage occurs, that’s a welcome development but hardly the only barometer of success.

For example, before the story on Keeli appeared today, one of the videos now linked from the WJ website had attracted more than 220 views. And other videos I’ve shot for Scheck & Siress and other clients, dating back to May, have drawn thousands upon thousands of views.