The Art of the Media Visit

I have usually found it beneficial to meet face-to-face with members of the press. I have found them to be gracious and sincere, even when writing about sensitive issues.  And many of the presidents, provosts and professors our firm has taken to meet with the media, I feel, have gotten something out of this experience. While there are many different ways to set up these meetings, I’ve included some tips that have used to set up dozens of meetings annually. 

Pitch Something

It is rare that we say “Scott Willyerd, president of Old-siwash will be in town on X date. Would you like to meet?” Granted, the more your president is a celebrity the easier it makes it for an ask like this, but for many college presidents we suggest that we pitch an angle or specific topics that s/he wants to discuss. This allows the reporter to see you have thought about his/her beat and are suggesting ideas tailored to them. 

When designing a media tour you should think about the stories that you have and the most appropriate outlets. It may not be that your meeting is best for national mainstream reporters.  Instead, you may have a great story for trade publications. Having done the research about different outlets will benefit you when setting these meetings up. 

Prep Your President and the Reporter

Colleges and universities oftentimes do a good job at prepping presidents and deans for these meetings, but sometimes don’t think about sending the reporter some basic details. PR pros are looking to find areas of common ground – did the reporter and source go to the same school, major in the same fields, reside in the same city, etc. 

Most of the time reporters will do some background research on folks they are interviewing, but if you have a one-pager on your president, it’s never a bad idea to send this to the reporter ahead of time. 

Obey The Time

If you’ve pitched a short 15-minute coffee meeting with a reporter, stick to your allotted time. If the reporter decides that s/he can spend more time in the interview, so be it. But if you’ve asked for 15-minutes, don’t expect an hour-long meeting.  

It is also important that you arrive just a few minutes before your scheduled meeting. Journalists may have other interviews lined up and may not be able to meet you earlier. Arriving more than 10 minutes before your meeting, especially if the meeting will occur at a newsroom, is a real no-no.

Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd 

Lastly, it’s always a good idea for someone to accompany the interviewee to these meetings. This allows the interviewee to concentrate on the interview and others can take notes as to what was discussed and how best to follow up. The other person can also ensure that the source has addressed pre-discussed talking points and keep meetings on schedule. But institutions don’t need a parade of public relations pros attending these meetings. More than two other people is usually overkill and not necessary.  

Afterwards, we think it’s important to have a debrief and then define specific action items required for whomever will be following up and distributing any information requested.