The lunch remains the same: The enduring importance of the journalist lunch

Written by Matthew Sheahan

We live in a time when communications are becoming faster paced and our ways to interact with the world are multiplying. The advent of popular social media makes for a dizzying array of choices and interfaces. Am I out of date because I don’t have a Snapchat account? Does anyone under the age of 30 use email for anything other than work?

As the forms of communications are constantly changing and being updated, face time (no, not FaceTime!) is going to remain important. That’s why every single public relations worker should be taking journalists to lunch and making those personal connections as often as possible. Having that personal connection buys you a VIP table in someone’s headspace. Don’t turn down the chance to put a face and a good memory of a tasty lunch to your name; when a journalist sees your name in his or her inbox and is prompted to respond, you’ll be glad you made the effort.

When I worked as a journalist, I heard from a lot of public relations people. Some were good at their jobs and some were bad. The ones I remember most easily were the ones I had met in person. Those tended to be the better ones to begin with, because they took the time to foster a real relationship and get to know what it was that interested me and informed my work.

Even if I had no particular use for what those PR pros I had met were pitching me, I would make it a point to read through their email, hear them out, and see if their story was useful to one of my colleagues. A select few of them I’d go to when I was looking for a source, to see who among their clients may be able to speak with me about this particular subject or that.

Going to lunch with a journalist gives you another chance to ask them what they are working on, catch up on the latest people moves at their publications or sister publications, and let them know about you and your clients in a relaxed atmosphere. It gives the journalist (and you) a chance to get out from behind the desk for an extended period of time.

Having good relationships with journalists is central to what we offer our clients. Building those relationships is good for business and means we stand a better of chance of succeeding in our campaigns. Just as we don’t form long-lasting relationships with clients without in-person meetings, we’re not going to form the best journalist relationships without in-person meetings either.

Media Relations are key to what we do at Aspectus. Our reputation is going to precede us in everything that we do. We want journalists to have a positive association with us before we reach out to them on behalf of our clients. Our clients want us to know the media inside and out, and you’ll learn a lot more over a lunch than clicking through LinkedIn.

We encourage the team to invite two journalists to lunch every week, and aim to invite a journalist into the office to get their take on the state of media and journalist/PR relationships (over lunch). We keep a spreadsheet of these lunch invitations so we can track them and avoid too much repetition. We often mention going to lunch in a follow-up email after pitching a journalist or in conversation as part of a pitch. We try to make sure it’s a routine part of our outreach. They won’t always say yes and they often won’t respond, but you don’t know unless you ask. Fortune (and fortune cookies) favors the bold.

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