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Thanking a Journalist May Ultimately Benefit Your Utility

In the grand scheme of things, journalists generally aren’t too popular. In surveys of most-trusted professions, journalists are likely to rank up there (or is it down there?) with politicians, car salespeople and telemarketers.

And journalists have it rough, with jobs dwindling, the pay usually low and the public critical of just about everything they do. Basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain once said, “Everybody pulls for David. Nobody roots for Goliath.” Like Wilt, journalists are Goliath.

That’s why now’s a good time — a slow period — to get in touch with the key reporters and editors who regularly cover your utility and thank them for what they do.

You’d be surprised: Small gestures can go a long way. As mentioned above, journalists don’t offer hear positive reinforcement and plenty are socially awkward — many a reporter has been described as a denizen of the Island of Misfit Toys from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

So a simple thanks goes a long way. Same for a thank-you card.

So does an invite for a cup of coffee. And a half-hour spent sharing Starbucks can pay future dividends. Not only can you put a face to a name, which humanizes the relationship, but you can even talk a little about your plans for the upcoming year.

The idea isn’t to heavily pitch the journalist or expect anything at all, but planting a seed can’t hurt. Since most journalists these days are generalists, it’s also a way to make the reporter more familiar with the utility and what you do. That could lead to future stories.

One thing not to do is send expensive gifts. Many news outlets have ethics codes prohibiting staffers from receiving pricey items for fear that journalistic integrity may be compromised; gifts that cost more than a few dollars may be refused or donated to charity.

If your heart is still set on sending something, think along the lines of those gift tins that contain three kinds of popcorn. Everyone likes to eat.

In conclusion, remember that an effective media relations campaign is built around relationships. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to shore up relations with key media members.

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