Forming strong relationships with journalists are a vital component to being a successful Public Relations (PR) professional. Most journalists receive hundreds of pitches a day and many get ignored, regardless of how well they’re written.
Unfortunately, competition for a journalist’s time is fiercer than ever and emails from an unfamiliar source only makes a journalist less likely to read the content.
Building an authentic relationship with reporters, producers and editors is essential to standing out amid the endless emails, texts and messages they receive.
With more than 25 years of experience as a journalist, our Managing Director Leisa Goddard, provides perspective and insight into building and strengthening media relationships.
Create a list of media contacts that reach your target audience – whether it be the general public, a particular community or a niche market. It’s important to prioritise your list and include contacts you know personally, rather than having a long list of strangers.
Before you pitch, do your homework on these contacts and find out their areas of interest. Become well-versed in subject matter and flaunt your knowledge. According to Leisa, you should get to know a journalist’s writing style and craft a message to fit their style.
Time is a precious commodity for journalists, so be sure to contact them in a timely manner and deliver what they need by their deadlines. Remember that a journalist is often doing you a favour, so have photos and details already included because they won’t chase you up. Find out their lead times and if possible, always refer to a media database to find their preferred contact time.
Real media relationships take time and effort, so a long-game mindset is important. Try to maintain regular contact with them on social media channels or meet in person for coffee every now and then.
Though regular contact is important, ensure you’re not always selling an idea – the relationship should never feel transactional. Go as far as promoting their work by boosting their stories on your company social media platforms.
“Engage with media contacts on social media. Something as simple as liking and commenting on their posts shows your support and strengthens your relationship,” Leisa said.
After pitching to a contact, don’t follow up too soon or check up too often. You don’t want a journalist to think you are annoying or desperate. The general rule is to only send one follow-up message a week later and potentially once more if the story is still relevant. It is essential to check their preferred contact hours and always begin a phone call with, “Is now a good time to talk?”.
If you tell an editor that you’ll get back to them, make sure you do. If you can’t make a deadline, be honest and don’t make excuses. Don’t exaggerate details or provide false information in order to appeal to journalists. You will damage your reputation and lose trust with your contacts. Don’t be afraid of rejection because it’s better to build credibility with quality content.