In the world of Public Relations, building and maintaining relationships with journalists is like cultivating a garden – it requires time, care, and a dash of finesse. I would argue that this aspect of the job is not only the most crucial, but also the most daunting. Public Relations is the kind of industry that is forced to keep up with the times, forcing PR professionals to swiftly adapt to new means of making connections with key media folks. It’s not so easy anymore to pick up the phone and call an editor at the New York Times promising them an exclusive, and neither is sending an email blast to a long curated media list with the hope that at least someone responds.
Approach with Authenticity, Not Aggressiveness
Imagine you’re at a networking event, and you spot a journalist whose work aligns with your client’s interests. Instead of bombarding them with a barrage of pitches, take a more laid-back approach. Start with a genuine compliment about their recent article or a thoughtful question about their beat. This is key when it comes to sending cold pitches via email as well. Journalists receive hundreds of pitches every day, and their inboxes are often flooded with publicists trying to pitch the same stories that they think would be “a perfect fit” for their reporting. I’ve often found that when reaching out to a new journalist, I’m more successful in grabbing their attention not with an aggressive pitch right off the bat, but rather asking them first what stories they are working on, what they might be interested in reporting on the future, and if they have time to for a quick chat over the phone for an introductory conversation. Remember, building a relationship is a marathon, not a sprint.
Trust is the Currency
Trust is the cornerstone of any successful relationship, and it’s no different in PR. Once you’ve initiated contact, focus on establishing trust. Be transparent about your intentions, and avoid the temptation to oversell. Publicists often have a bad rep for skewing the news and working for their own agendas. But success for a client only carries as far as your success in building trust with the media. Journalists can spot a pitch from a mile away, but they appreciate honesty and authenticity.
Be a Resource, Not Just a Pitch Machine
Sure, your main goal is to secure coverage for your client, but being a valuable resource to journalists goes a long way. Share relevant industry insights, offer expert opinions, and be genuinely helpful. This means going above and beyond reaching out every few months with a relevant story. Keep tabs on the writers you connect with. Congratulate them if they moved publications or received a new title. Share their articles on your socials, and engage with them. By positioning yourself as a go-to source, you become more than just another PR professional – you become a trusted ally.
The Personal Touch Matters
In the fast-paced world of media, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. Stand out by adding a personal touch to your interactions. Remember details about the journalist, whether it’s their favorite coffee or a shared interest.Small gestures like personalized emails or handwritten notes can make a lasting impression.
Collaborate, Don’t Dictate
Think of your relationship with journalists as a collaboration, not a one-sided transaction. Seek their input, ask for their perspectives, and be open to their suggestions. When they feel like valued contributors rather than mere recipients of pitches, the relationship becomes more dynamic and mutually beneficial.
Journalists are People Too
It might sound obvious, but it’s crucial to remember that journalists are individuals with their own interests, challenges, and preferences. Take the time to understand their unique style and adapt your pitches accordingly. Building rapport is about finding common ground and respecting their time and expertise.
Timing is Everything
In the world of media relations, timing is a delicate dance. Be aware of deadlines, news cycles, and the journalist’s schedule. Sending a well-timed pitch that aligns with their editorial calendar shows that you’re not just looking out for your interests but are considerate of theirs as well.
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Building lasting relationships with journalists is not an overnight success story. It takes time, dedication, and a commitment to nurturing the connection. Be patient, stay consistent, and celebrate the small wins along the way.
Being a PR professional is not just about securing media coverage; it’s about fostering meaningful relationships with journalists. By approaching interactions with authenticity, building trust, and adding a personal touch, you can create connections that stand the test of time. In the world of PR, it’s not just about who you know; it’s about who you genuinely connect with.
I came into Public Relations with little experience or a professional background. When I joined Blue Practice, I had just graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder with a journalism degree in hand, and nothing but my own determination to learn the ins and outs of the industry as if I had instead spent the last four years of my life practicing the craft. However, I soon realized that my background in journalism came with an unexpected advantage: I’d been on the receiving end of PR professionals sending me pitches before. I knew what worked and what didn’t, what caught my eye, and what made me curious to learn more. I realized how valuable I could be acting as two sides of the same coin, and therefore figured out how to expertly build my own relationships with the media as someone who played on the opposite side of the field before.