The Power of Face Time (Not the Apple Kind)
I recently returned from Boston, where executives from our client, Eaton, held a terrific in-person interview with several editors and reporters from CRN, the tech industry’s premier publication for IT channel resellers and solution providers. During their chat, Eaton executives gave an inside look at the company’s 2016 channel performance and foresight into some exciting things in the pipeline. It wasn’t the first such meeting nor will it be the last; and it provided me with a great reminder of a few PR truths that are easy to forget in our fast-paced business, so I thought I’d share some insights:
PR isn’t just transactional. I’ve worked in B2B PR for the past 12 years, and I’ve seen the segment evolve tremendously. However, one thing that hasn’t changed is the competitive nature and demand to drive media placements that deliver value to a client’s business. Because if you’re not delivering results as an agency, someone else will.
But, when you add that high-pressure mentality to a hyper-connected environment, interactions with reporters have a tendency to become transactional rather than relationship-based. It can be easy to fall into the rut of sending a press release and pitch and watching the coverage come in, without ever having a meaningful conversation with a journalist. Even when we do talk to editors, it’s often in in the form of a phone interview, where the focus is always on the topic at hand and anything else is small talk. Some of this is understandable – remember, results are important! – but it leads us to treat our interactions as “I give you X, you give me X, we both go our merry way.”
If there’s anything Eaton’s visit to Boston reinforces – as we’ve learned on similar previous visits – it’s that relationships can still be undervalued in this industry. Taking the time to sit down with reporters to provide them with valuable insight into your business leads to trust, which gets you the (usually higher quality) results you’re looking for.
Giving reporters a peek behind the curtain goes a long way. In PR, we like to tell our clients that nothing is off the record. Anything you say, even if it’s positive, may end up in print or on camera. This is a good rule of thumb, but it’s also true that journalists want the inside scoop on your business, and providing it tells them that you value their business as much as you want them to value yours.
Once you’ve built a level of trust with a reporter, it’s important to have an open and honest dialogue that isn’t necessarily focused on getting great coverage. The coverage will come, but a certain amount of honesty can enhance the relationship and enable you to connect on a deeper level, which are important goals in and of themselves. That doesn’t have to mean blowing your big news or not asking for embargoes. It just means that if you’ve developed that trust, “off the record” doesn’t have to be a no-no.
Journalists are people, too. We say this all the time, but how often do we believe it? It goes back to the transactional nature of the business, but I’m often unreasonably surprised when I talk to reporters/editors and learn that they have families, hobbies and favorite sports teams – just like me! Whether they root for the Patriots (ugh) or grew up near your hometown in New Jersey (yay!), it always helps to be reminded that these folks are human beings with lives outside of their work covering (or not covering) your clients. Face time encourages this, putting faces with names, and helps us remember that, yes, journalists are people too.
None of these insights are major revelations, but they’re good reminders of how taking the time to sit down with reporters and editors can help PR pros deliver the results our clients are looking for while maybe – just maybe – making some new friends along the way.