Going Beyond the Pitch: A PR Guide to Building Relationships

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. 

Success Stories: Empowering Cleantech Futures through Strategic PR

Leveraging Cleantech Strategic PR for Transformative Impact

Cleantech and sustainability companies face the critical challenge of reshaping narratives, establishing credibility, becoming thought leaders, and driving innovation. These Blue Practice success stories of strategic PR illustrate the powerful impact of cleantech strategic PR on industry leaders’ narratives, credibility, and market positioning.

EPS: A Case Study in Cleantech Strategic Success

Following a wave of growth after an influx of funding, Blue Practice assumed all marketing functions for Energy and Power Solutions (EPS), a developer of optimized electrical systems. Our aggressive strategies to elevate the brand and reach new sectors helped us effectively reposition the company as a leader in a newly emerging category. 

While leading all marketing functions for the company, we built a new website and corresponding content, created a new company tagline, managed corporate collateral and exhibits, built a strategic list of shows and events, and built a market presence for the company in a vertical industry sector. Working with a PR to develop and deploy strategic PR initiatives ensured that messaging and communications on all platforms were consistent, cohesive, and relevant. 

Strategic PR directed EPS to new target strategic sectors for business development, and then effectively marketed the company in those areas with a newly-developed toolkit of key messages and positioning. 

Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute: Pioneering Thought Leadership through Cleantech PR

The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute is a prime example of how we have established thought leadership in sustainability. From strategizing the organization’s launch to promoting adoption across many industries, we played a formative role in shaping its communications efforts.

Our launch event earned coverage in the Wall Street Journal on the organization’s kickoff event at Google headquarters with the likes of former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chad Hurley of YouTube and Wendy Schmidt of the Schmidt Family Foundation.

To further the Institute’s communications goals, Blue Practice produced a marketing summit that brought together more than a dozen companies to unite under a shared message and set of values. This collaborative effort not only fostered a community of like-minded organizations but also amplified the collective voice advocating for Cradle to Cradle certification.

In our ongoing partnership with the Institute, we supported its initiatives and the many companies that achieved product certifications. Blue Practice’s expertise in media relations and corporate communications became a cornerstone for these brands, particularly those within the built environment, apparel, cosmetics, and other consumer goods sectors. By aligning closely with their goals for publicizing sustainability efforts, we ensured that their product innovations received the recognition they deserved, and cementing the Institute’s role as a leading standard for circular design.

The Institute’s continued prominence as a leading force in sustainability is a testament to the potency of strategic PR. Through our work, Blue Practice solidified credibility for the institute, and became an example of how an organization’s thought leadership can be nurtured through strategic PR.

AEye’s Journey: Storytelling Innovations in Biomimicry

AEye, an autonomous vehicle technology designed to perceive like a person but think like a robot, needed a completely fresh approach to telling AI stories. We leveraged strategic PR strategies to translate AEye’s complex innovations to a more general audience. 

Many AI innovations have the potential to change the landscape of any industry they’re applied to. But the formulas, science, and stories of their creation are often more nuanced than the typical journalist can understand. 

We worked closely with the AEye team to gain a deep understanding of AEye’s iDAR,for autonomous vehicles, allowing us to develop two bylined articles and run a strategic education campaign, engaging reporters and influencers in the space about the relevancy of biomimicry in the world of AI, initiating conversation around iDAR’s technology and AEye’s industry call to make the robot perceive like us, demonstrating their leadership in the autonomous vehicle space.

This work allowed us to introduce the AEye team to a variety of influencers in the space, resulting in introductions with top-tier media such as The Wall Street Journal and Fast Company, as well as placements in VentureBeat and Inhabitat.

By partnering with an agency specializing in sustainability innovations and strategic PR, AEye was able to earn coverage in mainstream and industry publications, establishing the company as industry leaders in an exciting sector. 

Carbonfuture: Shaping Narratives 

We have also found success in strategic PR by bringing data-driven strategies to Carbonfuture.   

To help the company tell its story to a broadening rank of global business media who were just beginning to cover the carbon landscape, we provided insights and strategic recommendations informed by a thorough media landscape analysis. By analyzing the way the media had covered the space to date, we were able to help Carbonfuture understand how companies in their space had defined their share of voice, the impact of announcements, and what the recurrent themes were echoing in the media.

Blue Practice’s recommendations and emphasis on credibility building reshaped Carbonfuture’s narrative, positioning it as a trustworthy voice in the evolving carbon market. This case exemplifies the impact of data-driven strategic recommendations in strategic PR.

Unlocking Success with Strategic PR

Our case studies of EPS, Cradle to Cradle, AEye, and Carbonfuture emphasize the significance of strategic repositioning, credibility-building, thought leadership, and innovative cleantech and sustainability engagement. Through them, we can see how strategic PR drives impactful change and fosters leadership.