There was a time when you could hit a couple of pubs on Fleet Street in London and see all the journalists you cared to see. The Canadian media mogul, Lord Thompson of Fleet was so named because that’s where newspapers were located.
It’s a long story, but the move to new technology in newspapers and locating some as far away as Canary Wharf changed all that. So did the lifestyles of journalists. It’s hard to find a few in the same pub, and often in any pub these days.
In my view, as in all cities, here are few short cuts to having good media relations. I’ve been on the other side in both local and national newsrooms. I’ve also been a correspondent and never set foot in the newsroom to which I filed 6 stories a week. I’ve been a nameless, faceless writer whose name no one would know, and the anchor of local and national newscasts whose name and face everybody seemed to know. Regardless of the job description, I received very little mail and few phone calls to pitch me stories. I always wondered why.
Today, I think I know. Media relations has been mechanized by companies that sell press release distribution, people who think that reporters should read their blogs and others who think reporters will call if they want news from you.
This is way off the mark. A typical journalist has a dozen or so screens and data bases she can look at. Some are wire services, others are services internal to the station or network, and still others are special ways of searching law databases, medical information and so on, depending on the reporter’s beat. Hoping the reporter will log onto a paid service, knowing that newsmakers paid to be on their in the hopes of getting free publicity, is lazy and wishful thinking. Why a reporter would look for your blog, and how she would find it is even more wishful thinking. And why call you, when there’s a whole phone book (metaphorical, now) of numbers to call.
No, there’s no substitute for wearing out shoe leather. There’s no substitute for wearing out the letters on your keyboard or the numbers on your phone.
When it comes to reporters, write, call, text, mail.