As PR professionals, media relations is one of biggest parts of our job (if not THE biggest part!). Our clients expect consistent media coverage even when there isn’t always hard news to pitch, which means we’ve got to get creative. While well-written press releases and exciting announcements are always a promising start to secure coverage for our clients, the most reliable tool is having strong, authentic relationships with journalists. If you’ve got a good working relationship with a reporter, it’s more likely you can work together to find an angle that makes sense for the outlet they write for and will pique the interest of their readers.
In theory, this all sounds reasonable but you might be thinking: okay, some of these reporters don’t even respond to my pitches, how am I supposed to build a relationship with them? Here are few tips that could help you connect in a meaningful way:
- Do your homework. Get to know a reporter’s writing. Referencing past articles and knowing how they tend to structure their work can help grab their attention. For example, if you know they always include quotes in their articles and you can include an excerpt from an exec in your initial outreach then you’ve already cut out a step for them.
- Make sure you scratch their back too. The key is that these connections with reporters should be mutually beneficial. You should be just as much of a resource to them as they are to you. How can you help make their job a little bit easier? Perhaps it’s as easy as congratulating them on a new gig.
- Be mindful of what you’re sending them. Just because you have a relationship with a reporter doesn’t mean they’ll write about anything you send them. Be courteous of overloading their inboxes and only share info you think they’ll actually be interested in.
- Check out their social pages. Journalists are humans too! By following them on social, and sharing their content, you’ll not only stay updated on their recent articles, but you could get a glimpse into their everyday lives. Maybe you see them tweet about The Bachelor finale and can connect with them on a personal level about how much you both are loving (or hating) this season.
- Talk to them about things other than your clients. Obviously, you want them to write about your clients, but sometimes it’s important to take a step back. If you see an article they’d be interested in, shoot them a link. This could help them start to see you as more than just another PR person. Show them that you care about their assignments and instead of pitching them your client out of the blue, try asking what he/she is currently working on to see if there’s a way you can help.
Of course, every reporter has different preferences so take all of these with a grain of salt. The biggest takeaway here is that journalists are integral to the work we do as PR pros and we can also play a role in their jobs, so why not find a way to work together? It will make both of our lives a lot easier in the end—plus, you might end up having more in common than you think.