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Engaging with journalists: how to jump the media fence

Ahhh journalists, the multi-tasking geniuses who live a foreign life; inaccessible gatekeepers on the other side of the media fence.

No matter how you view journalists, the reality is that despite fragmentation in the media market due to social media and citizen journalism amongst other things, journalists still play a major role in the news that every day people consume and trust. So it’s important for anyone who wants to use the news media to get their organisation’s message in front of the public to understand how journalists’ minds operate in order to build effective working relationships.  Engaging with journalists does not have to be difficult, really, but there are particular things you need to be aware of if you’re going to get it right.

Choose your targets wisely

Spending time investigating the specialities of journalists at your target publications can significantly increase your success when making a pitch. By forming relationships with journalists in your industry, you can put yourself in a position to become their go-to expert, giving you additional opportunities to raise your profile and that of your organisation.

Think about them

Journalists are happy to form symbiotic relationships with industry and PR professionals, but ultimately their job is to report the news. When you are engaging with them, make sure you are offering them information they are actually going to care about.  By limiting your engagement to meaningful, mutually beneficial communications, they will stay interested in you and you won’t feel you’ve wasted your time.

Timing

Despite the stereotype, journalists really do need an extra few hours in the day.  They operate in a multiple deadline-driven environment and when those deadlines are imminent their sole focus is nothing but those stories.  If you want your story to run, or have been asked for comment, make sure you communicate with the journalist as early as you can, as fast as you can. The last thing they want to consider when they have 20 minutes to file a story is a brand new perspective.

Don’t take it personally

Today’s journalists are expected to produce more content with less time than ever before. The pressure of the industry can often lead them to communicate curtly, if at all, with people.  Don’t take it personally.  Put yourself in their shoes and think of what’s going on at the other side of the fence. With committed, consistent engagement you can form a strong working relationship with even the most hardened hacks.