0800 612 9890

Why the contacts book is PR advisors’ and journalists’ best friend

By Kenny Angove

There are three things PR advisors and journalists prize – their ability to write, their nose for a story, and, most importantly, their contacts book.

It’s drummed into you as a junior reporter that everything relies on contacts, contacts, contacts. It’s contacts who bring you tip-offs, and contacts who stand those tip-offs up and turn them into stories.

Journalists are exceptional at working contacts and gaining trust quickly. The best reporters will nurture them over years, placing the utmost importance on protecting their trust and respect. They suss out people quickly, and adjust their cues to suit – even when they pick up a random phone call to the newsroom. And, despite what the public think, they would never hang a contact out to dry.

On the other side of the fence, PR advisors rely on having contacts in the right places to secure coverage for clients. And working in an integrated communications agency, that doesn’t just mean journalists, but influencers and bloggers, too. Public relations teams also work their contacts at clients to provide the kind of content the media – online and offline – craves.

In an ideal world, it shouldn’t make a great deal of difference whether a PR is dealing with a journalist they know or one they don’t – a great story will stand on its own merits.

Building and maintaining contacts

But building and maintaining contacts in newsrooms gives PR advisors a stronger platform to sell-in a story on a busy news day, or get their client’s side of a dispute a better hearing.

If you are dealing with someone who knows you know what you’re doing, you’re coming at it from a running start. If they trust you and remember that you’ve come through for them in the past, all the better.

Your media contacts know you’re aware of what they’re looking for, what interests them and what they can use. And whether you’re an ex-journalist or not doesn’t come into it – these guys want stories that will engage their readers, sell papers or drive traffic online.

A big part of this is knowing when they want it, too. Your chances of getting coverage on a release you put out at 4pm on a Friday are much lower than if you hit the phone and sell that story at 10am that day.

And there’s no point sending a “top 10 tips” story to the news editor when it should be in front of someone on features, or a business story to the entertainment correspondent.

Even addressing an email to a job title, instead of personalising it with a name, can work against you. As professionals who prize by-lines, journalists appreciate people who know their name.

There are online tools to help PR advisors find the right person but it’s really only by getting to know the people on publications, talking about their stories and building a relationship with them that you get an insight into what will get their attention. Ideas that won’t float at one paper or magazine could be just the thing for another – it’s knowing who that is that is the key.

A big part of the job is staying in touch with the industry.

Pick up the phone

Social media is useful for this, as journalists want their contacts to know when they move on, but you can’t beat picking up a phone for a natter with an old pal on this or that newsdesk to find out who’s gone where and what their new job is – better still, get them out to the pub and buy a round!

All business is built on relationships, which is why, as an integrated communications agency, we strive to become an integral part of our clients’ teams. Building the trust so that clients can let us into the innermost working of their business relies on forging friendships with the people there. We get to know the people we work with, not just the business. And we care about them.

We build a rapport and those friendly conversations are where many of our PR ideas come from – those relaxed asides as you exchange personal news that reveal someone’s fundraising for a charity, or a promotion they might have forgotten to mention, for example.

And that’s where relationships become the conduit. We use the relationship with the client to find the story, carefully craft it, determine its perfect audience, and articulate that story to the right journalist in such a way that it will have maximum impact.

To find out how we push the boundaries of PR, marketing, digital and web design to get the best for our clients, call us now on 0800 612 9890.