Fun fact: Most journalists like drinks, though some prefer lunch or coffee – even breakfast.
I’m posting this reminder because business meetings between journalists and PR professionals – though far from obsolete – are in danger of going extinct. Any journalist who likes seeing his or her own byline and any communicator worthy of the name will tell you personal contact between both sides is important.
Journalists, bloggers, and influencers are famously overworked. Judging from the number of after-hours emails I get, I’m guessing many PR staffers are, too. Yet I can’t overstate the short- and long-term benefits of face-to-face meetings.
Reporters and editors who can put faces to names are likelier to respond to calls and emails from PR pros, take their pitches seriously, and write and edit about them more carefully than those who can’t.
Email pitching has its benefits, of course. It’s an effective but unobtrusive way to reach a journalist after hours without risking an annoying call during dinner or a night out. And it often helps to put things in writing. But even in 2016’s smartphone-driven media environment, the pendulum shouldn’t be allowed to swing all the way to one side. In-person meetings, even if just for a few minutes, still have considerable long-term benefits.
The catch is that PR pros have to earn journalists’ time. Journalists don’t want to hear only about how wonderful everything concerning your client is. Bear in mind that when their editors ask them where they’ve been, they need a substantial answer – too much of the opposite and they’ll be expected to move on to better sources.
As a journalist, I realize the fault is sometimes ours. Time crunches exist and reporters are often gleaning information from social media and other digital sources, as well as human ones – and that’s before the robots take over. (Even the stalwart Associated Press embraced Wordsmith, a "robot journalism" platform that can crank out millions of articles per week, last year.)
Yet even in the days when publishers take byline counts as measures of reporters’ productivity, there’s still time for meetings – as long as they’re productive. It’s simply up to both parties to reach out.
"Reporters and editors who can put faces to names are likelier to respond to PR calls and emails"
Frank Washkuch is news editor of PRWeek. He can be contacted at email@example.com