Your client wants an in-person meeting in NYC next month with a business reporter covering their industry and pressure is on to book it. There is no breaking news or hard news associated with the meeting. There are some pretty good reasons we don’t do as many in-person meetings these days: reporters are just too busy and charged with writing too many stories a day to take 45 minutes to an hour out of their day and meet when they could do a phone interview and be done with the interview in 20 minutes.
Although not as common and easy to book these days, there is still a real value in establishing a relationship with a reporter and making a connection in person. I recently sat down with ABC News business reporter Richard Davies and got his take on why coffee meetings still matter and how to make these meetings more effective.
1 –Have something interesting to bring to the table: You need to have something compelling to say during the meeting. Davies recounts a story of how he recently met with an executive from a large automotive company, and the meeting lacked substance as the spokesperson didn’t have anything new to say about the industry and couldn’t discuss any big picture trends. This is a lost opportunity and a waste of time for everyone involved.
2-Quality vs. quantity: “I didn’t get into journalism to crank out stories as quickly as possible. I got into this industry to write quality pieces,” Davies stated. “If I can have a meaningful conversation with a person for one hour that can eventually lead to a story down the line, this is extremely valuable to me.”
3-In-person meetings spark excitement and ideas: Davies explains that he gets 20 pitches by email a day and that doesn’t include story suggestions from his news team or phone calls. If he can have a meeting with an interesting person who is quotable, helpful and an expert in their industry, this naturally benefits him. “No question that sitting across the table from a person is going to foster more creativity and conversation.”
4-PR people need to get it too: Davies says a pet peeve is when PR people don’t play by the rules and just expect him to meet with their client when they haven’t properly researched his work and do not have a refreshing news hook or trend to discuss. He says that it is refreshing indeed to hear from a PR person who has done his or her homework and is comfortable talking to him on the phone about why the meeting would be beneficial.
5-Be patient: By building a relationship and establishing credibility as a spokesperson, you are going a long way toward eventually seeing a story placement. It may take months, but if the meeting was productive, coverage will eventually happen.
So next time a face-to-face meeting is on the table, don’t sweat it and pick up the phone and pitch a trend, not a product or service. Make sure you are quotable in person and remember that the purpose of the meeting is not coverage today, but building a relationship over time that will eventually lead to ink.