Deskside media briefings aren’t dead. Here are the do’s and don’ts.

May 9, 2016

There is this preconceived notion that media relations is strictly an art conducted over the phone or via email. You send an email, pick up the phone to follow up, and then, if a reporter is interested, you schedule a phone call or email interview. We’re here to tell you there’s one more thing you should consider as part of the PR mix – deskside briefings. They call it media relations for a reason.

As PR professionals, it can be easy to get caught up in the latest and greatest ways to get our clients in front of the media, but it’s important to keep in mind that the foundation for great media success lies in building a relationship, one that sometimes does not have legs to stand on if the interview is just conducted over the phone or via email. Here at BPR, we have a wealth of expertise at our fingertips through our clients who have the ability to engage and wow reporters. In an attempt to bring back the importance of genuine face-to-face interactions with reporters, Barokas Communications has found great success in booking in-person media briefings for our clients.

Through firsthand trial and error, we’re here to disclose the do’s and don’ts of successful deskside media briefings.

Do find the right spokesperson to put in front of the reporter
One of the keys to relationship-building success is having a spokesperson that is passionate about the subject. Have your client give you the rundown on the expertise of each spokesperson. Once you find those perfect spokespeople and get them in front of the right outlets, make sure you connect with them to debrief following interviews. Discuss what worked, what did not, and if there’s a better spokesperson for a certain topic moving forward.

Don’t let your client walk into a meeting blind
Ideally your client is already great at thinking quickly on their feet, but preparation is key to ensuring they will be ready for anything the reporter might throw their way. This is especially important for an in-person meeting where facial expressions are worth a thousand words. Before the interview, take the time to inform your spokesperson about the reporter. Go beyond the basics (i.e. the reporter’s beat and what they typically cover) to topics including their opinions on your client’s competitors and their stance on industry hot button issues. Also try to get personal. What does the reporter like to do in their free time? Yes, this is about business, but sometimes your client will be able to make a deeper connection with the reporter because they went to the same college, both love cats, or are also obsessed with Breaking Bad.

Do ID the right people with the right story
Step one to booking an in-person briefing starts with research. So, you find the PERFECT contact at Re/code for your client? Great! Do they live in the designated location your spokesperson is visiting? Didn’t think so. Before reaching out to the reporter, make sure your stalking skills are up-to-par. You can’t always trust Cision, especially as many reporters now freelance and live in smaller markets across the country. LinkedIn or Twitter are great ways to confirm a reporter’s hometown. Find out their favorite coffee shop and offer that as a meeting point. Bonus points for you when they come back with a, “Wow! I love that place!”

Do set reasonable client expectations
Congratulations, you have secured the in-person media briefing! Now is the time to set client expectations. The reality is that a story might not immediately result from the conversation. It’s important that your client understands the importance of this introductory conversation as a relationship building opportunity. While a story may not hit a week, a month, or even a year after the interview, there is a good chance the reporter will reach out to the spokesperson as a resource for future stories because of the connection that was made.

Don’t think everything will go as planned
We live in a busy time, in busy cities, with busy schedules. Cancellations happen, and sometimes even only minutes before the scheduled meeting. As the PR professional, you need to have a plan of attack (not a heart attack) when the reporter cancels last minute. Stay calm, cool and collected with the client and focus on how you can reschedule the interview, either in-person or over the phone, if necessary. Don’t give up and be resourceful! If you have at least a day’s notice, try to fill that empty space with a new interview.

Do keep in touch
The best thing about in-person meetings? They actually remember your client. Yes, the reporters remember that they spilled coffee on their pants and ordered way too much food. The spokesperson has created a connection with the reporter, opening a line of communication that will make it easier to follow up in the future with relevant news.

The bottom line here is that as a public relations professional, you can’t forget about the art of a face-to-face relationship. Once you find your ideal client spokesperson, use them! There is nothing better than seeing the CEO or CMO’s passion for their company shine through in person. Put down the phone, and schedule an in-person briefing. We promise, it will be beneficial!

– Tara and Hannah

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