SYCOPHANT: A fawning flatterer. A servile or obsequious person who flatters somebody powerful for personal gain.

Oh, how reporters, those powerful purveyors of positive publicity, love to be flattered! So if you can do it, go for it. Flattery, done in the right way, can get you far. But don’t be a sycophant. Flattery done right is not a simple thing. There’s an art, and a level of integrity required. And your flattery must, must, must be genuine. This means doing some homework before you write to the reporter. It’s the digital equivalent of “think, before you speak.”

The best way – really the only way, unless you personally know the reporter to whom you’re speaking, is to read one or more articles or blogs written by the reporter, and then comment on them (um, favorably). This doesn’t mean spend an entire day researching everything the reporter has ever done – and it doesn’t mean gushing on and on about what a wonderful thing he/she wrote. Just make it simple and sincere.

It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Either you can go to the online version of the publication where the reporter is on staff and search for his or her name to find recently written articles, or just google the writer and see what articles or blogs come up. Speed-read one or two. If an article appeals to you, especially if it relates to you or your business, then make a reference to it in your pitch to the reporter.

The nice benefit to you is that you will understand the reporter a little better after you’ve read one or two things he’s written, and this will make your pitch better. Elegant logic, yes? And, even if your flattery doesn’t net you a mention in the reporter’s upcoming article, it will help to build a bit of a genuine relationship. Next time you make contact, you’re likely to remember who you’re talking to and what story angle might be of interest, and you’re likely to be remembered as well.

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