Eric May – Media Consultant




How to beat the competition every time

Anyone who goes to a press conference or political meeting knows there’s a lot of wasted time. You sit around waiting to find out what it’s all about.

So here’s some news: if you wait for a meeting or press conference to start, you're already behind.

But if you already know something about what’s going to be said, you’re obviously much better off when you go to shoot and interview.

The best way to find out is to call a contact – someone on the inside to get some information on what it’s all about.

It can be a minister or a government official, it can be an industry expert, someone in the Press office, even a secretary. 

Every aggressive reporter has a network of contacts. If you don’t have one, you’re not staying ahead of the game.

How you develop contacts is your own business – start with casual conversations, develop them over time, and then when you really need it, call them and get the real information.

Your contacts don’t always have to be the usual sources. Secretaries, clerks, and other people not at the highest levels of the organization are sometimes unusually well informed.

Larry Brinton of WSMV Nashville even suggests developing contacts among the bad guys. That’s your own decision. But Larry says good contacts among the criminal and the corrupt can be a real competitive advantage. You’ll definitely get both sides of the story.

No matter if it’s a convicted criminal or a high government official, the key to developing good contacts is how you build trust with them. If your contacts trust you, you’ll get a better story.

To build trust, remember they are helping you, and it goes both ways. Take care of your contacts and help them if you can. If they’ve got a story idea for you, pitch it to your editor or producer. Call your contacts to say hello regularly. Stop by for a visit or take them to lunch. Take an honest interest in your contacts and they’ll pay you back in good stories. 

And thanks to your good contacts, you’ll know what that press conference or meeting is all about, before you even get there.

While the other reporters are waiting to find out what’s going on, you’re already way ahead of them, making decisions about the thing your viewers really care about – the story you got from your contact.