Welcome to August. Here in Washington, the news pace is slower with Congress on recess, making it the perfect time to take out journalists you’ve been wanting to get to know better. So how do you get the relationship off the ground?
Back when I was at the Associated Press, a boss would compare source relationship building to dating.
Start slowly. Send a note to let them know you follow their coverage and would love to be a resource. The first time you meet, just get to know one another. No fast moves – meaning don’t come with a big ask off the bat.
Get their number. You’ll want to stay in touch and while email is good in the beginning, you’ll want a cell to text or call to grow closer.
Keep in contact. Let them know about developments you are seeing. It’s best when this intel comes without an ask but as a genuine offer to be helpful. Think about meeting their needs first, and yours will naturally follow so it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.
Compliment, but don’t go over the top. Follow their coverage closely and send them notes when you appreciate what they are producing. Just don’t become a suck up and give them the ick.
Play the field. Everyone knows both sides are seeing other people, but no one wants to hear about it so be discreet. Don’t ever tell what you’re discussing with other journalists, especially anything their competitors are working on. That’s a trust killer.