Oh, the revered, feared and much-sought-after members of the media. The press! Those influencers that we as small biz owners long to connect and build relationships with, who also make us nervous when we think of emailing them, calling them, following them, tweeting them - you name it! Well fear no more! The purpose of this post is to squash those nerves and remind you: the press are just like us!
I've worked in some facet of PR for over ten years. First, as a PR assistant, then an agency account manager, then I started my own agency and from the on out working with the press has occupied some part of my days and weeks - in fact it's hard to recall the days when I didn't have media on my mind. One of the many bonuses of being in that world for so long is that I've been able to "grow up" with many members of the media I work with. I was able to watch women move from assistants at Seventeen Magazine to big time editors at the Huffington Post. These same women at the same time were getting married, have children and grow their influence. I've watched a favorite editor who worked her way up from the accessories department at Oprah Magazine move on to a bigger job at More Magazine who just this week announced she was moving on up the editorial chain to guide younger editors at Redbook.
I've gone to Ugly Christmas Sweater Parties with them, I've glasses (bottles) of red wine with them while we lament busy work schedules, relationship adventures, family life and more. In fact, I'm going to one major online/on-air influencer's son's first birthday party at the end of June! What's my point? These people are just like us. Sure, they have jobs that can change your business in a major way, but what I want you to get out of this is that they're human. That relationships with them are not impossible to create. That they want to help you (if you're the right fit for them). They aren't untouchables and you should not fear them!
Believe me, when I was a young, green publicist I sure did. But I couldn't avoid them, I had to connect, and I soon learned that the producers, editors and journalists that intimidated me were awesome, normal people who were much easier to relate to than I expected. Sounds like it should be obvious but when someone has so much perceived power over your brand you can forget it...
So let's remember it again! Let's remember the press are just like us. Let's work with them like they are! In an attempt to help you do that, here are a few pointers:
1. Treat the press like you would like to be treated:
Learn their names and say them right. Learn their beat and read their coverage. Compliment them on Twitter or via email when they rock a story. Figure out their work schedule and call them at the right time (social media or simply asking makes this a lot easier). When you call them or email them have manners, be polite. This is especially true when calling them on the phone. How would you want someone to treat you when they interrupt your day at work? Behave accordingly (i.e. polite and succinct).
2. Find common ground to use as a foundation for a working relationship:
Do you love spin classes and know they do too (because you follow their Instagram)? Do you share the understanding of what it's like to be a working mother? Perhaps you find out what type of candy they love, and send some to them. Sound crazy? It's not. I did it. After reading about the type of candy a certain WWD editor loved on her Twitter feed, I sent her a massive bag of it (she's the editor in the bottom right hand corner's #TBT pic). Let's just say it wasn't a bad thing. The point is, make an effort to connect. That's how real relationships form and guess what, they're real people who want a real relationship with you!
3. Figure out how to make their lives easier.
Sure, you want a normal relationship with them but no, this isn't without a work element involved. So instead of thinking "how can I get what I want" shift your focus to say "how can I give them what they need, package it as it would work for them, and make their lives easier?" It's a simple mindset shift that requires you to slow down, think a bit strategically, and make it work for them, which if done right, will make it work for you too!
4. Move past fear and discomfort and dive in!
If you were a single guy or gal trying to get a date, you wouldn't expect it to happen by sitting quietly on your couch all day hiding from the world (unless you were deeply embedded in a Match.com or OKCupid hunt). In the same way, if you want to grow real relationships with the press you have to get out there, just as if you were dating and make them happen! Realize that you have something awesome to share, that the world and editors and readers and producers and vierwers want and need to hear about it, and go for it! Connect with them! Offer to bring them coffee! Find a time to have a quick phone call! Persistently and politely keep in touch. Treat them with the Golden Rule in mind and remember, they really are just like us!