When was the last time you invited a journalist to lunch or coffee?

I can just see lots of you squirming in your seats as you’re reading this. Some of you are even starting to perspire.

A few of you, I bet, are paralyzed at the thought of eating lunch for an entire hour with a journalist because, well, what would you say? How would you act? And what happens if they back you into a corner and you’re stuck there in the restaurant with way no way to retreat?

Well guess what? Lots of savvy Publicity Hounds are using these slow days of summer to invite reporters to lunch or coffee. When I worked as a reporter, I almost always accepted people’s invitations for lunch because it helped me learn more about them and how they could help me. And every reporter knows they’re only as good as their sources.

If you’re inviting a reporter to lunch:

–Remember that your Number One goal is not to encourage them to cover your story. It’s to find out how you can be helpful. So ask the question, “How can I help you?” If you can help them, I can almost promise you that, eventually, they will cover you because they’ll know you’re a valuable source who they can come back to again and again.

–Don’t dive for the check. Many print reporters work for newspapers and magazines that have ethics policies prohibiting them from accepting anything of value, even free lunches. So before the wait staff comes to the table, say: “I’d be happy to buy your lunch, but I know you might not be able to accept free lunches. So how would you like to handle the check?” Then do whatever they prefer, and don’t worry that you’ll look cheap. The last thing a reporter wants is to be put in the uncomfortable position of arguing with you over who pays.

–Bring story ideas, information about trends you are seeing in your industry, and contact information for other sources the reporter will find helpful. Reporters love it when you tip them off to trends, and you’ll score valuable points that will make them remember you.

The etiquette of breaking bread with reporters is only one of many topics I covered when George McKenzie interviewed me for the CD we produced called How to Get Free Publicity in Print It’s available as a CD or an electronic transcript that you can download and be reading in a few minutes.

About the Author:
Reprinted with permission from Joan Stewarts’s “The Publicity Hound’s Tips of the Week,” a free ezine featuring tips, tricks and tools for generating free publicity. Subscribe at PublicityHound.com and receive free by email the handy list “89 Reasons to Send a News Release.”

Posted on 14 July 2006

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