This is a guest post by Marty Weil. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.
During my career, I’ve been on both sides of the Journalism/PR equation. It’s a symbiotic relationship that has traditionally been fraught with both pitfalls and opportunities. When the two sides work in harmony, the relationship can be rewarding. I’ve been on the journalism side of the fence for more than a decade now, and I’ve learned some valuable lessons about how to develop and maintain good relationships with my former mates in the PR department. In recent years, building and maintaining a strong connection to valuable PR assets has become even easier with the advent of social network tools like Twitter and LinkedIn.
Before I delve into how I use social networking to nurture the relationships that yield story ideas and interview contacts, I have to confess that I’ve never been one to pursue a story based solely on the merits of a friendly relationship with a PR person. A cozy relationship isn’t what I’m after; as a journalist, I respect PR people that deliver, keep their promises, and hook me up with the information I need to meet my deadline. I understand there was a time when three-martini lunches resulted in front-page coverage, but that was never my style, even back in the day, when all I had for a contact management system was a Rolodex.
So, how have I developed, maintained, and benefited from my network of contacts?
First, I treat every PR person the way I wanted to be treated when I was in the PR trenches. I know it’s a tough job to pitch reporters while serving the needs and aspirations of a client. Often, the two masters have conflicting needs and interests. That’s the root cause of a lot of problems between journalists and PR folks—I get it.
To keep my relationships with PR people useful and productive, I’ve adopted a networking approach designed to make the most out of what these relationships have to offer. And online social networking is the perfect venue my purposes. For instance, I can use Twitter to follow a number of key PR people in my areas of concentration (i.e., education technology, manufacturing technology, renewable energy, and food processing). The real power of Twitter is its search function. When I’m assigned a feature by one of my editors, I can search the topic on Twitter and immediately find a conversation that speaks to the story I’m pursuing. If it’s a story topic with legs, I’ll become a Twitter follower of the experts or PR people on the issue. When I make contact with those experts or PR people, I’ll then “friend” them on LinkedIn to strengthen and nurture that connection.
As a journalist, I use LinkedIn to an even greater extent than Twitter. Often, when I’ve been assigned a feature, I will go to the “Answers” section of LinkedIn and post a question asking for expert contacts on the subject I’m covering. Using this technique, I’ve been connected to experts and PR people that I would have never found using a traditional Google search. It has also helped me to establish long-term, highly beneficial relationships with PR people and others who continue to supply me with story ideas and contacts.
Using Twitter and LinkedIn, I’ve been able to actively pursue relationships with PR people and topic experts. To develop relationships that I might not uncover through social networking, I launched a blog that is designed to inform PR people and other interested parties about my journalism activities. On the blog, I posts alerts about recently published articles. I also comment on how journalists can use social networking to build their relationships with editors, publishers, industry experts, and PR people. I know that savvy PR people will use my blog as a tool to discover the topics I’m interested in and reach out to me with story ideas and suggestions. The blog is another doorway through which new, profitable relationships can be developed that will enhance my journalism career.
The Internet has broadened the scope of what is possible for journalists. I’ve embraced the technology and look forward to finding new, innovative ways to connect with people who can help me write the stories that fill the pages of my publishers’ magazines and Web sites.
Marty Weil is a freelance journalist who writes about the use of technology in education, food processing, and manufacturing for a variety of B2B publications. He blogs at http://www.martyweil.net, and you can also subscribe to his feed.
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