Developing Your Stable of Press Contacts

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It may seem obvious, but when it comes to your press strategy, there is absolutely no substitute for a ‘Rolodex’ of contacts. While the physical Rolodex might not exist anymore, the idea of nurturing a stable of key contacts is very much alive and essential for a successful press strategy. blank-office-rolodexJust how you do that is where the rubber hits the road.

Think of your press contacts as someone you met on an online dating site. You know a little bit about them (and mostly what they want you to know) and you want to get to know them better. If this were Match.com, you’d ‘wink’ and write a clever note and wait for their response. For a writer you want to get to know, it’s as simple as saying hello and explaining how you think you can be of help to them. Here are some others tips that we use to nurture our press relationships.

Tips to keep in mind:

  1. Do Your Homework: Are there writers you love reading? What have they been writing? Can you see yourself or your winery in their column? If so, tell the writer just that. Keep your message short, but meaningful. Share what it is that you think is relevant to their readers.
  2. IRL: How many of the press you talk to by email, social media, and phone have you met face-to-face? Make it a goal to meet for coffee or a glass of wine. Take advantage of your market travel schedule to meet newspaper columnists and bloggers in smaller markets too.
  3. Start with your Supporters: Is there a writer you find yourself effortlessly communicating with? Suggest a time to go out for coffee or a drink to discuss what they’re working on. In addition to talking about your own clients, talk about other relevant brands as well. It’s important to be a trusted source within your industry.
  4. Beyond the Job: WHO are your best contacts really? Do they have a day job? Find out their hobbies and interests. Perhaps knowing that they’re an amateur mixologist or an avid gardener will help a future campaign.
  5. Mix it Up: While you’ll want to plug some of your latest projects, don’t have it be the only thing you talk about. Mix up the conversation by talking about work, life, etc. You’ll get a better sense of who this person is, and in the end, what types of stories they’re looking for.
  6. If you don’t ASK, you won’t GET: Depending on how the conversation is going, be honest and ask them what they think of a particular story idea. Consider the feedback they give you and use your judgment as to what to do with it.
  7. Say Thanks: There is no substitute for common courtesies. Make sure you send a brief e-mail the next day thanking them for taking the time to meet. Provide any information on specific projects you discussed and ask for any material they mentioned giving you.

If you work in PR and marketing, chances are you’ll get to know a lot of people over time. It’s so important to establish relationships both online and offline and try to make them as meaningful as possible. The journalist will appreciate your interest in knowing who they write for and what they have on their radar. Watch your results grow as your relationships do.

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