How to build a network of media contacts in PR
There’s a saying many of you have no doubt heard before: “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”
And this is particularly important when it comes to building a network of media contacts in PR. It’s also the backbone to the success of any public relations campaign, which is why “who you know” is so crucial in public relations.
Why? Because nearly 50 per cent of journalists receive about 100 pitches a day into their inboxes and they don’t have enough time to cover everything. Having a network of well-established media contacts is extremely important for you to stand out among this very big crowd of PR professionals. It means journalists become more open to your pitches and story offerings.
What is a media network?
People are at the core of PR. It’s about media relations – having the right media connections and leveraging those connections to get the right outcomes for your client.
Those media connections are what make up your media network. They are journalists, editors, chiefs of staff, producers, news directors, presenters, and other media representatives. People who work in the media who you want to share your clients’ stories with.
Not only does the media need those stories to fill airtime and column inches but, invariably, they want to be the first to publish those stories.
How to build a network from scratch
So, where do you begin? How do you build a network? How do you start making connections to compile a media list?
It’s about identifying journalists you want to meet, having a dialogue to establish a relationship, and maintaining communication with them. PR becomes a lifestyle with networking a necessary part of the job.
It’s important to get to know your media contacts not just as journalists or media personalities, but as people. Identify journalists you think you’ll be reaching out to the most. Take the time, outside of your regular PR pitch, and connect with them on a personal level.
This is important. They then see you as a colleague who can help them with content and stories. But they have to be relevant, good-quality, and well-researched. Journalists are time-poor. They don’t want to waste time on a connection that doesn’t provide what they’re looking for.
Often if a connection doesn’t work, it’s because the wrong stories were offered to the wrong reporter. So, take the time to make sure your approach will resonate.
Try to personalise your approach. Ask about their interests and hobbies. It could be as simple as making plans to have a coffee to introduce yourself and break the ice. Journalists love coffee. But, being mindful of their busy days, only set aside 30 minutes and have a few stories to pitch to get the conversation going.
Make sure your approach is word perfect and grammatically correct. Double-check everything and ask a colleague to read over it before sending it. Two sets of eyes are better than one and can help pick up any mistakes that might annoy the journalists and, therefore, lead to a rejection before you’ve even started.
Talking to journalists can be intimidating and daunting and many PR professionals say it’s one of their biggest challenges. Making a connection may take more than just one coffee. Keep in touch and remember not all reporters owe you a story just because you’ve bought them a coffee or drink or two. You could even create some friendships which would make your connections stronger.
Join Social Media networking groups
With the onslaught of social media, there is a plethora of networking groups to join. They range from groups that focus on specific industries to those that have a broad scope of people working in the areas of PR, marketing, and the media.
Choose the ones you think will best suit you and scroll through them on a regular basis to search for people or businesses you wish to make a connection with. Social media has made networking so much easier and allows you to find out a lot about a person just by looking at their social media accounts or looking them up on Google.
Follow the accounts of the journalists you want to connect with and start liking, and even commenting, on their posts so they get to see you. We all know how much time we all spend on social media. Utilise the message tools such as those on LinkedIn or Facebook Messenger. It is an effective and efficient way to reach out to people and start those all-important conversations. It could be the way you invite them for that coffee.
Attend networking events
Network to create a network. Attending networking events within the industries you want to target is a great way to meet entrepreneurs, potential clients, and professionals in a casual setting. Take several of your business cards, as you never know who you’ll bump into while you’re mingling.
Be organised and regularly update your network of media contacts. You don’t want them to become cold or stale. It takes a lot of time and effort to gather and build your media list, so you want to make sure precious names, phone numbers and email addresses are kept up to date.
You could also consider organising your network of contacts in alphabetical order, under relevant industries, geographical regions, and media types. In a spreadsheet, you could also attach any relevant personal information as well as stories they’ve covered or meetings and events where you’ve met.
Relationships with journalists are like all relationships, they only work if two people are interested and open to communicating. Networking is a complicated business and one you can’t put a value on. Building a network of media contacts is the most important part of PR – of growing your client’s business as well as your own.
At Adoni Media, our experienced team is made up of senior journalists, former newsroom bosses, foreign correspondents, political correspondents, and producers for A Current Affair. We know and understand media relations from both sides. We also have a national database of media contacts that has been built over many decades working in the media and PR. If you have a communication goal or PR strategy you need pitched to the media, contact us.