As the PR industry continues to change and evolve around us at an astonishing pace, I’ve had the good fortune recently to get reacquainted with an “oldie but goodie,” tried & true tactic – the deskside media visit.
It had been awhile since I’d participated in any deskside visits, and frankly, I’d forgotten just how valuable they can be. To reach out to a reporter, invite him (or her) to coffee, and focus primarily on asking about his job, what he’s working on these days, how you and your client can make his life a little easier – it’s a wonderful way to reinforce relationships, even if the meeting doesn’t result in immediate media coverage. (Although sometimes, they serendipitously do just that!) It’s also a great way to introduce a client to a reporter and establish a new relationship – whether that client is relatively new to PR, or the reporter is new to his beat.
While you can – and should – certainly go to such meetings with several trends/specific potential story topics in mind to share, the real benefit of deskside meetings or coffees is that the pressure is off, and you can simply get to know one another, give the reporter a face to go with your client’s name and chat frankly about how and when the reporter prefers to be approached, what he’s looking for, and how at a high level your client’s organization should be on his radar.
It’s also valuable for clients to hear straight from the proverbial horse’s mouth how the journalism industry is changing and the impact those changes have had on reporters’ jobs. As we on the PR side know well, while a reporter may have had only one beat to cover several years ago, he may now have five or more. He may be writing for both his outlet’s print and online channels – meaning more pressure to produce more content within less time. And he may have gone from having a large cadre of newsroom colleagues to trying to cover everything as a team of only three people. However, clients don’t necessarily live as immersed in the media world as we do, and I think sometimes it makes a big difference to them to hear that kind of information directly from the reporters themselves – and then to be able to ask direct questions about how to adjust their approaches and expectations accordingly.
While it’s so easy these days to get caught up in the exciting swirl of “new” PR tools and ideas, traditional media relations is still a core pillar of what most of us do. And it pays to revisit some “old” PR 101 tactics – like the deskside media visit.