There is a well-known phenomenon in journalism that goes like this: Just as you are finishing an interview and packing up your things – notepad, camera, microphone – that’s when the source says something great, and that is the story lede.

Or if you get to spend time with a source over a longer period of time, and finally the source says something that ties it all together, that’s a golden moment. In both cases, trust and understanding has developed and the best pieces of the story emerge.

That’s the power of in-person interviews. Conversations are richer and more authentic than virtual interviews or phone calls. Observation is keenest face-to-face.   

One-to-one connections in media relations are essential. A face-to-face meeting is a crucial first step to building a relationship – whether for an expert source or a PR representative.

As more in-person meetings start to be planned, it’s easy to look back and recognize what has been accomplished in the past two years with Zoom, phone and email exchanges. Media relations professionals got the job done, but it wasn’t ideal or the best practice.

Whether weighing the benefits of traveling across the country to meet journalists or devoting an afternoon to meet with local reporters, it is worth the time invested.

Here are value take-aways:

  • There is something special about meeting people in person, from both the journalist side and source perspective. You hear about each other’s days as you walk from the elevator to conference room, notice body language, have a greater chance of hearing and understanding the focus of the journalist’s beat for this interview or future story pitches. Meeting in person sparks conversation in a different way.  
  • Meeting face-to-face removes the distraction of emails, calls and texts. You are engaged and focused, and the quality of conversation is stronger, which can lead to more compelling stories.  
  • Usually there is more time offered for in-person interviews. There is an expectation of conversation that is part of an interview. More time allows for a thoughtful and thorough discussion, and even for the journalist to see the potential for more than one story.   

The beauty of an in-person interview is that it is a start. We remember someone better if we have met in person – particularly if they have shared something memorable, or we connected over an interest in a topic. From a clearly business perspective, if in that first connection we offer what the reporter needs – an expert with an amazing ability to see trends in a journalist’s beat or a PR person’s demonstration of understanding how a particular journalist likes to be contacted or helped on deadline – that can be the beginning of successful coverage for your organization over time.

After the first face-to-face interview, then using Zoom, phone or email can work well for future interviews and story pitching. Meeting periodically in-person is the ideal way to keep the relationship strong. In-person visits have been and will continue to be the gold standard for developing relationships with journalists.

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