Don't be a jerk. Don't get snarky if a reporter or editor doesn't grok the intricacies of your project. As Alan Z pointed out: "While it's not your job to represent the OSS community — because there isn't such a beast — realize that what you do does reflect on other open source efforts, at least to that reporter." I wish Alan was overstating things, but I have encountered these attitudes far too often personally.
Your community guidelines (whether that's a formal document or the cultural vibe) should include something about treating the press like real humans who, duh, do not consider "coverage" to be quoting from other articles or a FAQ. We call that plagiarism, not coverage. I recognize that developers point others at existing resources because what other developers want is answers. However, journalists may not want a feature list as much as we want perceptions, experiences, and opinions. If I post a message in your IRC channel asking why you chose an app, please don't send me to the FAQ! I want your personal story.
This barely skims the surface of "press relations" lessons for open source projects, and it doesn't begin to include the suggestions made by Jennifer, Zonker, or Peter during our session, but it's a start. (If you have any questions you'd like me to address in later blog posts, please ask in the comments here and I'll do my best to respond. If there's enough interest, this could be an ongoing series.) There are, however, a few other resources you might want to explore:
- I'm more than a little famous in professional PR circles for Care and Feeding of the Press; some of it is stale, now, but the long essay should still give you a sense of how we set priorities.
- Josh Berkus gave a wonderful session on open source press relations at the Open Source Bridge Conference, which I mentioned towards the end of my own conference coverage. He published his slides on his site.
- If you're serious about getting your project noticed, I recommend that key committers sign up to participate in Help a Reporter Out. If a reporter needs expertise that someone in your project can share — even if it's not about the software, per se — you might be able to get a bit of press simply by, well, helping a reporter out. It's a free-to-all service that I depend on regularly.
You should follow me on Twitter. Just sayin'.