By Mathew Chandler

The rules of media engagement have changed in the past decade. If you’ve failed to notice, chances are you’re tearing down the walls of trust you are trying to build.

If your strategy is still focused on the long lunch or leisurely coffee catch up and some thyme infused hipster bikkies, it might be time to reconsider.

Just like you, journalists are increasingly time poor. As you labour over your menu decisions and notice your lunch partner fidget restlessly when you place an order for wine and the long trifecta — entrée, main and dessert, rest assured it’s just dawned on them that your lunchtime intention is to eat and make small talk, not fill the afternoon online edition or tomorrow’s column.

Disaster.

Instead of building media relations, your seemingly archaic method of relationship building has effectively deprived a journalist of what they need most—information and time.

So what to do?

The lunch here isn’t the sin; it’s your lack of value that’s letting you down. If you want to lunch, go right ahead, but follow these few simple rules:

  1. Plan ahead – Ask the journalist in advance how much time they have and what day of the week has them most clear of deadlines. Some journalists will accept your lunch invitation out of politeness and regret it the moment they sit down.
  2. Be flexible – Coffee, lunch or phone interview? Find out what would make life easiest for the journalist, not your boss. Sometimes a breakfast catch-up before normal working hours will work best for everyone. You can start your day with good conversation, and theirs without unwanted interruption.
  3. Don’t order the degustation – Unless the journalist has specifically said they have an afternoon clear, plan to eat somewhere that you know is high in quality but quick on service.
  4. Be transparent – If your plan is to catch up without any intention of contributing to a story idea, tell them in advance. The journalist can then decide whether to go ahead with lunch or whether to reschedule to a less busy time in their calendar. They’ll appreciate your honesty.
  5. Know your worth – The value you (or your boss) bring to the table is not your dazzling ability for conversation. It’s the newsworthiness of what you have to say, be it about your own company or what’s trending in your industry. Plan ahead and have something of news value to contribute. If you can’t think of anything, refer to rule 4 or reconsider catching up at a later date when you have something to say.

Mathew Chandler is the Managing Director of Acumentum Communications, a Sydney-based content marketing agency that specialises in building content that resonates.