Everyone knows that one of the most important cards that a PR can hold in their hands is a Little Black Book (LBB) of media contacts, but what do you do when you become an expat in a country or city that you have no ties to? New job, new colleagues, new friends and nothing in that essential LBB! Where do you even start and how do you make your mark on a sometimes ‘impenetrable’ industry?
Well, this is a challenge that I recently faced as a PR Executive. I took the big, bold step of moving my entire life to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where I knew no-one, albeit a small handful that I used to work with in my flight-attendant days. (Long story!) I was ‘lucky’ enough to have joined my fantastic company, Fifth Ring, right in the midst of event season, where from almost the very first day, it was my monumental task of calling our extensive database of valuable UAE-based media to convince them to come to our events.
The hard part of compiling your LBB starts when you try to form long-term relationships with them in order to create two-way communication, constructive feedback (both positive and negative) and essentially, what you want is a ‘professional friendship’ with them.
These are some tips that I would suggest, whether you are compiling your contact LBB as an expat, or even as an intern or PR assistant entering the ‘big, scary but oh-I-so-want-to-be-you’ world of PR!
Be as helpful as possible: If a journalist contacts you asking for any piece of information or images get back to them ASAP!
Acknowledge them: Even if you don’t have what they need just yet, keep them in the loop, acknowledging their request and then letting them know that you have for example, contacted your client, and will get back to them ASAP.
Socialise: The very first time you get invited to a social gathering, event etc do your best to attend! Not only will this help you to connect with them ‘outside of work’ which will help to develop your relationship, but if you keep declining, they will stop inviting.
Stay professional: Be very careful of berating other journalists or even your clients or colleagues to journalists as the media world is tiny and your reputation is fragile.
Stay in touch: After events, try to stay in touch with the few that you feel you connected with, even if it is just a quick email to say hello, as it’s nice for the media to not only hear from you when you want something. This will help to develop a mutually respectful, professional relationship with them. (This doesn’t mean add them on Facebook the minute you get home from the event, or forward them 10 ‘cute animal’ emails a day!)
Say thank you: If the journalist has done a really nice piece on one of your clients, say thank you. A quick email is all it takes but they will certainly appreciate the gratitude - even if they don’t respond immediately! They work in a ridiculously busy world consisting of deadlines (as do we) but they will remember your appreciation the next time you pitch something to them and possibly be more inclined to help you where they can.
Finally, at events, don’t try too hard with the media. Try to be genuine and honest. Media (and every single person in the whole world, for that matter!) can pick up on someone when they are trying too hard to be something they’re not, so lighten up and just be you. And if you think you’re a little odd, the media tend to like ‘quirky’ sometimes anyway.
While I have given you some tips on how to build up your own LBB, my teeny, tiny little secret tip is ‘be the amazing you that you are!’ As far as I’m concerned, we work in one of the coolest, most fun, most exciting industries in the whole world and like anything, if you feel passionate about what you do, it will shine through, and as ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne suggests, you will attract positive energy in both who you are and what you do.
So . . . Be Bright, Be Bold and always, always, Be Better-Than-Before.