How To Interact With Reporters At Industry Events

In our previous post, "Tips for Effective PR Networking" on the pivotal role of PR networking within the industry, we highlighted the fact that PR fundamentally revolves around people; it is an art of forging, nurturing, and leveraging the right connections. It's a continuous process of engaging with a range of individuals, making it more of a lifestyle than merely a profession.

But it's not just about online connections. Interacting at industry events plays a crucial role in fostering successful relationships. Building or reinforcing these relationships with reporters in person is essential to gain media coverage and fuel your professional growth.

With major tech events like WebSummit, Slush, Sifted Summit, and others just around the corner this fall, let's dive into strategies that will help you make the most of these opportunities and understand how to effectively leverage them to advance your PR goals.

Before: Preparation Is Key

You may think that the most critical part of connecting with reporters occurs during the events themselves. However, it actually starts long before you even step through the doors. Attending an event without adequate preparation can lead to missed opportunities to meet, recognize, or share relevant information with reporters.

So, what can you do before the event to ensure you make the most of it?

  1. Research the Reporters and Media Outlets:
  • Look into which reporters and media outlets will be in attendance. It's crucial to identify those most relevant to your goals and be able to recognize them.

5 steps to do it:

  • Reach out to the event organizers to inquire as to whether they could share the list of media attendees. It’s often the case that their policy restricts the sharing of the list of reporters. Nevertheless, sometimes, especially if your client is one of the speakers or sponsors, they are able to send the official media list and the contacts of the registered journalists.
  • Look for the event speaker schedule and stages. Here is an example from the WebSummit 2023 speaker list, and you can find more information on the agenda.
  • Use the official conference app if the event has one. It’s an effective way to manage your schedule and connect with the reporters in the dedicated chat rooms.
  • Check reporters' social media accounts, as many of them will share their plans to attend, as well as their location.
  • Regularly check the hashtags and recent tweets, as well as posts on LinkedIn — and reply when relevant!
  1. Engage on Social Media:
  • Follow reporters on various social media platforms and actively engage with their content. Building a connection before the event can make your in-person interaction smoother and more meaningful.
  1. Familiarize Yourself with their Work:
  • Take the time to delve into their past work and areas of interest. This knowledge will enable you to tailor your approach and conversations to align with their interests.
  1. Craft a Compelling Pitch:
  • Prepare a pitch about your company or product that is not only compelling but also newsworthy. Remember, having a brief ‘elevator pitch’ to relay rather than a full, rambling story is more effective as it quickly and simply conveys your news to reporters, making it more memorable and increasing your chances of getting coverage.

Some tips for crafting a compelling pitch:

  • Regularly monitor industry news and trends to identify current topics and issues journalists will likely cover. It’s even more effective if your story aligns with the event's overarching theme or the current industry trends, so tailor your pitch accordingly. Example: “AI has been applied to many tasks, from coding and writing news to generating titles for a Marvel show. Yet there are way more ambitious applications that have been proven by professionals and regulators alike.”
  • Provide reporters with unique data, insights, or perspectives on what’s going on right now. This could involve sharing research findings, survey results, or expert opinions. Remember, reporters like facts and figures. Example: “Early detection and timely treatment are the most cost-effective ways available to combat vision loss. More than 93 million adults in the US alone are at high risk of serious vision loss, while fewer than 11% are aware that there are no early warning signs of glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy that cause blindness.”
  • Frame your pitch around a problem-solution narrative. Explain how your company or product addresses a specific challenge within the industry. Example: “Among the 207 million content creators worldwide, 32% cite podcast editing and production as one of the top three hurdles when considering podcast creation. This startup streamlines the entire podcasting process, making it a seamless solution for producing and distributing top-notch content for solo podcasts, interviews, audiobooks, voiceovers, and more.”
  • Share statistics, concrete examples, or case studies that illustrate the scale and impact of your solution. Journalists are often interested in stories that provide solutions to real-world problems. Example: “The platform has been installed in more than 100 eye clinics and optometry centers, and at least 1,000 eye care practitioners use it regularly in over 140 countries.“
  • Keep your pitch focused on the issue, trend, or solution itself. Avoid overly promotional language that makes it sound like an advertisement. Instead, position yourself as a valuable source of information and expertise.
  • Remember, the goal of your pitch should be to offer something that has the potential to result in a newsworthy story, not just to narrate the history of your company. By aligning your pitch with current trends, offering valuable insights, and presenting real-world impacts, you will increase the likelihood that reporters will see the news value in your story and choose to cover it.
  1. Reach Out in Advance:
  • Don't wait until the event begins to establish contact. Reach out to reporters before the event and offer to schedule meetings or interviews. Reporters typically have busy schedules during industry events, so securing a dedicated time slot in advance is a prudent move.
  1. Extend Invitations for Side Events:
  • If your company is hosting any side events or activities during the conference, extend invitations to relevant reporters ahead of time. If they confirm their attendance, make a point of meeting them during the event and ensure they have an enjoyable experience. It would be unwise to leave them stuck near the bar alone while you're busy with other issues and attendees.

By diligently preparing prior to the event, you increase your chances of forming meaningful connections with reporters. You will be well-equipped to engage with them in a way that resonates and leaves a lasting impression.

During: Connect Without Being A Stalker

The most engaging but challenging phase unfolds during the event itself. However, if your pre-event preparations were thorough, this stage is considerably more manageable, increasing your chances of success.

Here's what you should focus on during the event:

  1. Choose Your Sessions Wisely:
  • Pick the sessions attended by the reporters you wish to establish relationships with. Also, consider sessions involving major companies, as reporters often attend them to gather news and insights.
  1. Offer Exclusive Insights:
  • During your meetings or interactions, provide reporters with exclusive insights, data, or behind-the-scenes information that can fuel unique and compelling stories. This approach captures their attention and demonstrates your value as a source.
  1. Build Genuine Relationships:
  • Authenticity and personability are key. Be yourself and genuinely show interest in the reporters' work. Ask about their coverage preferences and areas of focus. If this is your first interaction, avoid immediately pressuring them about your clients. Understand that building fruitful relationships is a long-term endeavor.
  1. Leverage Networking Opportunities:
  • Make the most of networking events, social gatherings, and side events that are part of the industry event. These informal settings provide excellent opportunities to connect with reporters more personally. Engage in meaningful conversations, share insights, and remember to follow up afterwards.

Balancing the art of connecting without being overbearing can be a delicate task. However, by maintaining a genuine and respectful approach, you'll not only maximize your chances of building lasting relationships but also ensure that reporters see you as their partner.

After: Keep In Contact

The final phase is equally crucial, as the relationships you've built can easily fade if you neglect them once the event is over. It's essential to sustain and nurture these connections for long-term success.

Here's what you should focus on after the event:

  1. Express Gratitude and Follow Up:
  • Shortly after the event, reach out to the reporters you interacted with to express your gratitude for their time and contributions to the conversation. Offer any additional information or resources you discussed or that may be pertinent to their stories.
  1. Maintain Regular Communication:
  • To keep the relationship thriving, maintain regular communication with the journalists. Aim to touch base at least twice a month. A practical strategy is to stay connected through their social media accounts, ensuring you remain on each others’ radars.
  1. Engage on Social Media:
  • Monitor their recent articles and comment on them. Share content that you believe could be useful to them. Be proactive in offering assistance, whether it's helping them find an expert source or connecting them with someone of interest to their work.

By consistently maintaining contact and actively engaging with reporters beyond the event, you will establish yourself as a reliable and supportive partner. This ongoing relationship-building effort not only maintains their interest but also opens doors to future collaborations and opportunities. In the world of PR, sustained connections are often the key to lasting success.

Keep in mind that cultivating relationships with reporters is a gradual process, so it's crucial to maintain patience and consistency. While events can provide an excellent chance to turn cold contacts to warm ones, this transformation relies on your ability to establish trust and credibility with these journalists.

Best of luck — and perhaps we'll cross paths at Web Summit!