May is a particularly busy time in higher education, so when two of my colleagues suggested squeezing in an unplanned day of media visits this week I panicked. My to-do list flashed before my eyes. My anxiety heightened thinking about my inbox filling up, while I sipped coffee at a meeting.
I could think of so many reasons to say no. But, I didn’t. And for that I’m grateful. In a profession based on relationships (as so many are), face time is always worth more than a day in the office. And our day in Boston this week was no exception. It energized me to be deliberate about scheduling in-person meetings more frequently and reminded me of the power of spending time with people.
In fact, I’d argue that the very times (like now, commencement season) in which you’re feeling most overwhelmed by your laundry list of press releases, pitches, and emails, are the best times to give up a day, get off campus and connect with people on a human level. Here are three reasons why.
- Many times it’s more efficient. The casual introduction of a story over coffee or lunch with a reporter can often yield results far more quickly than the time it takes to craft a perfectly written pitch. Once you’ve piqued a reporter’s interest in person, the follow up becomes less time consuming as well. Background is out of the way. Communication from there on out is focused on logistics and getting the story done.
- You’ll gain insights you wouldn’t have otherwise. Email isn’t usually the place reporters share details about newsroom priorities, upcoming areas of focus or impending personnel changes. But all of these details, which do tend to come up during in-person meetings, are extremely valuable for media relations professionals to know and be able to plan around. Bits of information about reporter’s personal lives—such as when they’re planning vacations or new areas of interest—can also be helpful to know. Nothing can derail the best-laid PR plans like your target journalist for a big, exclusive story being out on maternity leave at the time you planned to pitch them.
- You’ll be top of mind. Names and institutions can start to blend together for reporters who get hundreds of pitches a day. And it’s human nature for us to open the ones from people we recognize and have a personal connection with more quickly. You’re much more likely to break through when a journalist is able to put a name in an inbox with a face—and personal experience, like that time you met them for coffee.
So, yes, May is a busy time. But these three reasons alone are precisely why now is the right time to break out of your rut and get out there. I promise it’ll pay dividends. And you might even have a little fun in the process. You may have seen on Instagram that Teresa, Cristal and I were giddy with the chance to take a picture at WGBH feet from Jim Braude and Margery Eagan while they were broadcasting Boston Public Radio live! I should also add that the Newsfeed Café serves up a fantastic iced mocha—much better than what’s usually available in my home office.