How to Not Suck at Befriending Journalists
It starts at our first play date. Evolves onto the playground. Carries us through to frosh week and follows us into our career. Of all the survival skills one doth possess in life - making friends is an invaluable talent.
So what happens if you really suck at it? Or if you just suck at communicating with strangers in general?
It’s not news that connecting with journalists is trying in itself. Making friends with them first is always encouraged, but that can be easier said than done. Especially for those who find social interaction tricky on their best of days.
Do you need to not suck at befriending journalists? We’ve got you covered.
Start with these three tried, tested, and true pieces of advice and make new friends in no time. Just don’t forget about us!
1. Make Them Feel Like the Coolest Journalist in the World
Remember what it felt like when you were picked first for the dodgeball team in gym class? Or when someone you admire asks for your opinion at a party?
Being wanted or included is a great feeling, so you can imagine the effect it has on journalists who are constantly used for their written words. I mean, when was the last time you did something nice for a journalist? And I don’t mean feeding them a scoop. About your client. Or your friend’s client. It’s easy for a journalist to suspect you have an ulterior motive when suggesting a story. Even if you say that company you’re pimping is not a client, they’re always going to wonder what’s really in it for you.
Take a step back and show a journalist your appreciation in another manner. Ask to interview them for your company or personal blog. Doing a round up on tips from journalists? Include their best piece of advice. We promise you - it won’t just make their day, it will help you in the future when you want to pitch them a great story.
But be warned! Don’t immediately pitch them after you’ve interviewed them. That’s a one-way ticket to ruining the moment, if you know what I mean.
2. Be Your Funny Self
Spoiler Alert: being funny or witty works.
Because you’re awesome at PR you’re already following the journalists you want to pitch on Twitter - right? Chances are, they’re not following you back. Yet! One of my go-to ways to make friends with journalists is to interact with them on Twitter. Frequently enough that I become a blip on their radar, but not too often that they sense my desperation to be their friend.
Don’t become an overly-obsessed journalist befriender. [Click to Tweet]
I’m a firm believer that every person in the universe can find something in common with another human. It may be something small, such as a shared love of an author or television show. Maybe you both vacation in the same town every summer. Or you could both be on the same health kick or fitness routine. Whatever it is, you’ll soon spot it by regularly monitoring their tweets. How? By setting up a list to monitor them closely. But remember! Don’t be creepy. Make that Twitter list private!
When the timing is right, chime in on their conversation. Comment on a photo they’ve shared. And BE FUNNY. This is key to getting a Favorite and maybe even a Follow. Do you run the risk of making a lame joke every once and awhile? Sure. But the rewards far outweigh the risks when it comes to befriending journalists. So take a stab at a joke with your favorite journalist - you may just become friends.
3. Give Them the Gift of Content
We’ve preached time and time again about how busy journalists truly are. They’re always up against the clock, racing to get their latest story to an editor, while sourcing the next two, three, or four in the queue. It’s true, sometimes they’re just really not interested in your story, but in some cases - if time allowed for it, they’d be all over your news.
So how do you get around this common problem? By offering to do their job for them. We commonly say that PR professionals often do a journalist’s job for them by sourcing the ultimate story, but at the end of the day, they still have the write the piece.
So why not offer to ghostwrite it? While this may not work with regular or senior writers, many freelancers or regular contributors may be up for the opportunity - or should we say, break? Don’t make assumptions but do ask if they would consider a ghostwritten piece if they pass on a story angle due to time constraints. Keep links to other pieces you’ve written handy, they’ll likely want a sample of your writing to gauge your abilities.
In the end, they get great content and you get your story told.
And a friendship blossoms.
Do you have an unconventional way to befriend journalists? Got a great story about that time you sucked at getting to know a writer? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!