Friday, November 20, 2009

Is One-one-One Contact with a Journalist Ever Appropriate?

While listening in on a Webinar this week about how to use online press releases, I was surprised to hear one of the two speakers say that there's no place for one-on-one contact with journalists when trying to get publicity. Instead, this author of a book on using press releases online said if you've got news, it belongs in a news release sent to as many media outlets as possible.

I realize that the event was sponsored by online press release distribution company PRWeb International, but, um, this answer is just plain wrong. Fortunately, the other speaker on the Webinar, a publicist, did a little backpeddling on behalf of the author (who is not a publicist), noting that there are times when you have a story that's perfect for just one media outlet and when that happens, you focus on that outlet.

With that as the backdrop, here are four more situations when it's appropriate to contact a journalist individually:
  1. You have identified the six to 10 journalists who have the power to influence your success and you want to begin establishing a relationship with each one of them individually. Start the conversation. Relationships matter -- work on them.
  2. You want to pitch a story, not news. They're not necessarily the same thing. "Stories" don't always lend themselves to many, many media outlets.
  3. You're handcrafting a small media list to manage in-house and want to confirm a journalist's area of interest, responsibilities, or preferences for how or when to receive news and information from you. This is particularly relevant when you're seeking local, not national, publicity or when you're in a specific niche targeting a small number of trade publications or blogs.
  4. You have uncovered information that will help the journalist do his job better. Maybe it's an article from a national publication that you think the daily newspaper newspaper reporter on your "most important media" list will want to turn into a local story. It could be the opposite -- there's a feature in your local paper that's relevant to the work of an editor or writer at a national magazine that you'd like to have on your side.
Mass distribution of press releases might have a place in your publicity plan, but if you rely completely on that tactic and do nothing else to develop media exposure, you'll miss many opportunities to make headlines with your business, cause, product, or service. Those opportunities often come as the result of carefully and patiently cultivated relationships with journalists -- relationships that develop through one-on-one contact.

When you have contacted a single reporter directly and received publicity as a result?


Carol Margolis said...

Building a relationship is so important. I have been using Twitter to do that. When a topic for a story came along that I could contribute to, I was able to land a mention in USA Today. Then that same reporter came to me directly to see if I had info to help with another story, and I became the feature in USA Today. Build the relationship, nuture it, and never abuse it.

Sandra Beckwith said...

Congratulations, Carol! Thanks for sharing this. Were you following the reporter on Twitter, or did the query show up in a search for a term?