5 Tips for Building Relationships with Media

I think it’s fair to say that at some point in everyone’s public relations career, they’ve employed some form of the “spray and pray” pitching method. Shooting a press release or pitch out to everyone on a media list to see who bites can work on occasion, but a much more strategic and long-lasting approach is to create relationships with reporters.

I’m lovingly known around the office as the “media stalker.” Don’t worry, I haven’t crossed any lines, but it’s hard to be ignored when you feel that you have crafted the perfect pitch to the perfect reporter. So, when emails and phone calls don’t work, I often turn to alternative methods like social media, which often turns out well!

When the opportunity to listen in on a Webinar hosted by PR Newswire titled “You had me at Hello,” aimed at discussing the delicate PR/media relationships arose, I jumped at the chance.

While I was already aware of most of the tips provided, it served as a great reminder. I’ve outlined the top 5 takeaways from the presentation for you:

1. Create the relationship before you need the relationship

Everyone knows someone in their life that only reaches out when they need a favor. You don’t want to be that person. Instead, initiate a conversation with reporters before your breaking news hits. Offer introductory interviews with your clients. Provide the media some form of value, such as a third-party resource, before jumping in and asking them to cover your client.

2. Do your research

Have you ever reached out to what looks like the perfect contact in a media database only to get a response asking to be removed from your list? Although a great resource, sometimes keywords provided in media database searches can be misleading.

We’re lucky that we are now able to get insights about reporters through social media. Knowing your target by looking at previous coverage and reviewing their Twitter account is more important than ever. For every one journalist, there are 4.6 PR professionals trying to get their clients exposure. Uncover what the journalist’s interests are and what they’re currently covering, before connecting with them.

Google Alerts have been a great resource for me to find out who is reporting on the topic that I want covered. I’m then able to reference their recent piece, which provides the reporter with confidence that I follow their work.

3. Be a resource

You’ve found the right contact, you’re ready to engage in a mutually beneficial relationship, now what? Introduce yourself as a resource. The more assets you have ready to go, the better. This can include industry metrics, third-party contacts, executive interviews, images, b-roll, customers and case studies. They might not use one or any of your resources, but not being prepared can cause issues. Journalists are on deadlines. If you don’t have assets ready to go, they might move onto the next story idea or use stock photography. It makes such a huge difference to have a photo of the actual client or product accompany a story.

While it’s great to have photos and videos available, don’t attach them to an introductory email. It could suck up the reporter’s data, and could put you on a blacklist. Keep attachments, if any, small. If they want a high-res version, they’ll ask for it. A great alternative that a number of my clients use is a press resource web page, which houses high quality deliverables for the reporters.

4. Be your own devil’s advocate

This idea was proposed by James Pearson, EVP Corporate Communications at Grooveshark, one of the Webinar presenters. James advised asking yourself, “is this news?” Propose the questions the reporter would ask you. At this stage, it’s a good idea to use your coworkers. Bounce ideas and pitches off of each other. I’ve found that sometimes the best people to do this with are those who are not on the account with you. An “outsider” can oftentimes offer a new perspective.

Pearson also suggested professionals put themselves in the journalists’ shoes, and understand they’re going to have to talk to their editor. The more unique and comprehensive the pitch, the more likely you are to get a positive response.

5. Don’t forget to follow up

I think one of the most overlooked and underutilized practices is following up. To maintain a close relationship with the media, it’s nice to say “thank you” when a story is published. Tweet the piece and share it via social media. Additional exposure you can provide them is always welcomed. It’s also good practice to check in periodically with contacts you haven’t connected with in a while.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve circled back with reporters to see how they’re doing, what they’re working on, etc. and been told “you reached out at the perfect time. I’m doing a story on xyz.”

The bottom line is reporters are smart. They know when you’re sending them the same message as the other 100 people on your list. Treat them as the individuals they are, and you’ll get responses, respect, and maybe a few hits along the way!

Post by Alyson Kuritz, Strategist