Forging good relationships with journalists can be the secret to PR success. But establishing a connection isn’t always easy for PR practitioners, and historically these relationships have been strained. So how can you forge a positive bond with the media to make sure you’re their ‘go to’ resource for content?
First and foremost, creating rapport takes time and effort. It’s a long-term investment so it pays to spend time getting to know your media contacts during a period when you don’t have a news story for them.
Start by familiarising yourself with their work. Read previous articles, establish what their specialism is and take note of their likes and dislikes. Many journalists also have a personal blog or write for websites – follow their articles, share their posts, subscribe to their news feed with RSS. Anything you can do to create a link with them can also lay the foundations of your relationship.
In this digital age, the dominance of social media makes it easier for PR practitioners to engage with a journalist before starting to pitch to them. But ensure your engagement is meaningful, professional and focused. Twitter is used widely by journalists – in the first instance try re-tweeting them or replying to tweets. LinkedIn is accepted as a suitable network for professional introductions, so why not share connections that could be useful to your media contact? Interact via social media and, done in the right way, it can open doors for contact on other platforms.
Despite the strength of email and social media interactions, meeting up face-to-face is arguably more powerful. Head to industry events and tradeshows where journalists may be more open to introductions and looking for stories. But don’t neglect to acknowledge their busy schedule. Ask when would be a good time to call them, offer to meet them when it suits them – don’t presume they have time there and then.
Over time, you can demonstrate your value to a journalist by being empathetic to their needs. When it comes to pitching your story, adding value that could help the journalist out is key. Offer news that’s current – covering trending topics that journalists are hungry for – or even suggest an angle they can take for the story. Making your client contacts available for interviews or quotes is also invaluable. Timing is important, too, so get to know their print and publishing deadlines. Make sure you’ve released your story in good time to create their piece, and be responsive if they ask for information back from you.
Journalists are under increasing pressure to produce more stories, across a wider range of media, and are constantly on the look out for compelling content. Even so, with their time at a premium, they’ll be less tolerant of irrelevant or badly timed pitches. But because you’ve worked hard to get to know their requirements, you can make your release helpful and relevant. Include pictures, quotes, facts and figures, case stories and customer details. Anything that makes the job of the journalist easier can make you a more trusted and welcome PR contact.
The digital and increasingly impersonal nature of our world today means that it’s more important than ever to invest in your relationship with journalists. As they are bombarded with automated press releases and distracted by the plethora of social media sources, be the ‘human’ and friendly face of PR – someone who really ‘gets’ what they needs. Strive to maintain this relationship once you’ve forged it, too. In time your media contact will appreciate the value that you have to offer, and you are more likely to attract the positive news coverage you seek for PR success.