Journalist Networking Secrets from Inside the Wire

March 13, 2012

by Raschanda Hall, Global Media Relations Manager, Business Wire/Chicago

The purpose of media relations was beat into my head by my college PR professor — she often said, “The goal is to develop mutually beneficial relationships with the media.”

This definition very closely mirrors the Public Relations Society of America’s new definition of Public Relations. Only she never gave me an exact formula for achieving that goal.

So we decided to share our advice on how Business Wire’s Media Relations Team uses networking events and journalism groups to build relationships with members of the media.  One thing we’ve learned; while starting these relationships may happen in email or social networks, building them will require more face-to-facing and less “Facebooking.”

Luis Guillen

Luis Guillen

Networking Events – The Introduction

Ice breaking is an art form but it is not brain surgery, especially if you do your homework first.  Luis Guillen, our media relations representative for Southern California, says he researches the media people he expects to see at upcoming events beforehand.  “I like sports, so knowing what schools they went to helps me use sports and hometown information to connect.” Luis bonded with several reporters over small hometown familiarities at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists convention in Florida this past summer.  This led to new media connections he’s further fostered since returning to Los Angeles.

We’ve been taught to master our elevator pitch, but sometimes you have to take the stairs.  Maryana Bradas, who supervises our entire east coast team of media relations specialists, says:

Maryana Bradas

Engage in casual conversation,” especially when seated at a luncheon table.  “As long as they are relatively talkative your discussion will go all over the place.  Both parties will get a chance to talk about what they do and you can tell if you will have a good fit for further connecting.”

Maryana sits on the Press Club of Cleveland’s Board of Directors and attends the Society of Professional Journalists’ regional and national conventions. “As the conversation winds down you can go for the business card exchange.  That’s a natural progression.”

The Association of Women Journalists – Chicago(AWJ) has only in recent years established an associate level of membership.

Karen Kring

Karen Kring

Karen Kring, past president of the chapter, warns against pitching their members at events:

“Pitching is for when they are on the clock more formally. Turn it around; become the reporter . . . You not only want to know their beat, but what specifically within their beat they are paying most attention to so that you’ll know what kind of information or stories they might be receptive to in the future. If you have a story in mind, ask them if they’d be receptive to your follow up with them later.”

Journalist Groups – Getting in and Standing out

Raschanda Hall

Raschanda Hall

I take an alphabet soup approach to networking.  I’m everywhere, all the time.  NABJ, PCC, SPJ, SABEW, AWJ, ONA etc.  I talk to everybody and give every discussion my properly undivided attention, but to really connect with reporters through journalist organizations you have to put in some work; committee work and chapter board member work.  In these roles your work is selfless, and when done right, you build trust and get more immediate access to editors and reporters who can help you when you need it.  Now, this won’t save you from a front page crisis, but it could get you the heads-up that it’s coming.  An organization I was once involved in turned down sponsorship money from a competitor because they felt the competitor was trying to buy their way into the position I had gained through sweat equity.  In that single act my volunteer efforts paid off.

Dawn Roberts is Managing Partner of KD Communications in Delaware.  She also serves as Associate Member Board Representative

Dawn Roberts

for the National Association of Black JournalistsIt’s a position she is passionate about.  NABJ’s annual convention draws thousands of reporters and hundreds of PR people every year.  Her advice to PR folks: Attend media events so that you have an opportunity to meet journalists in person. And volunteer for a media organization. [It’s] a great way to meet journalists!”


Online News Association 2010 Conference Recap

November 8, 2010

By: Cecile Oreste, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire/DC

Business Wire Media Relations Specialist Cecile Oreste was among the 1,200 media professionals in attendance at the Online News Association (ONA) 2010 Conference in Washington, DC. Online journalists, educators and students from around the country came to the Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel Thursday, October 28th through Saturday, October 30th to learn from leaders in the industry, including AOL and NPR among others.

The four day conference started on Thursday with a variety of hands-on workshops including photography, video and audio field trips that shared best practices and techniques. ONA also organized a career summit and job fair featuring recruiters from American Public Media, Associated Press, Bloomberg Government, Gannett and Mashable. Yahoo! News sponsored the opening night reception at The Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, where attendees took in some local culture in between appetizers and drinks.

TBD, Washington’s hyperlocal news source, started off Friday morning with their keynote session, “Starting from Scratch.” Laura McGann, Assistant Editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, moderated the discussion between General Manager Jim Brady, Social Media Producer Mandy Jenkins, Director of Community Engagement Steve Buttry and TBD Editor Erik Wemple. During the keynote event, McGann questioned Wemple’s decision to devote prime real estate to TBD.com’s feature “The List.” Wemple’s response generated several tweets and also lots of laughs. He suggested that if you don’t have something terrible on your site, then you’re not trying hard enough. You have to fail many times before you get it right, he said.

Saturday’s sessions began with a keynote discussion about Wikileaks and also featured a lunch with Knight News Challenge winners. Other Saturday sessions included “Turning Bits into Bucks,” which discussed entrepreneurial journalism; and “Ten Tech Trends in ’10″ with Amy Webb, CEO of Webbmedia Group, an international digital media consulting firm that advises companies on emerging technology. In addition, Webb is on the Board of Directors for ONA and will serve as Chair of the association’s new Advisory Board.

Some of the trends Webb discussed during her session included the 2011 tablets coming to market and mobile image scanning (QR codes). According to Webb, these two topics, along with open source technology and design, were major themes throughout the conference. “Lots of journalists are eager to use web tools to enhance the work they do, and there were many opportunities this year to learn all about the latest offerings,” she said.

Tanja Aitamurto, Innovation Journalism Fellow at Stanford and blogger for The Huffington Post, said the conference provided insight on new production and business models in journalism, and also introduced the idea of journalism as only one of many products media organizations offer. She brought up a positive message presented by Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune during the “Fund My Media 2.0″ session on Thursday. According to Smith, there is still need for high-quality journalism; and where there is demand, there will be ways to produce and fund it. Aitamurto also added that in order for journalism to succeed in the future, “innovation, open mindedness and experiments are very much needed.”

The conference concluded Saturday night with the Online Journalism Awards Banquet. Hari Sreenivasan of PBS NewsHour brought the laughs as the master of ceremonies while MSNBC.com, NPR, ProPublica and CNN.com took home top honors.

Overall, the conference was a great opportunity to learn from and network with online journalism professionals. It also maintained a positive outlook on the future of journalism during a time when news organizations face a number of challenges. For more information about the Online News Association, please visit their website at www.journalists.org.


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