How to Build Relationships with Media Personnel the Right Way

By Melanie Parncutt, Publicist — Otter PR

Perhaps the most important skill any PR professional can possess is networking. After all, public relationships is an industry heavily dependent on relationships. 

However, building relationships with journalists takes a lot of work. It’s more complicated than simply maintaining a contact list with emails and phone numbers — you have to work hard to not only form the relationship, but also maintain it.

Many publicists will spend years building relationships with the media and their network so that their connections can be leveraged when they need to, but to take advantage of your relationships with journalists, you must first establish them. Although there is not one way to interact with the media, there are a few strategies that will always be right.

Make your pitch well-informed

First of all, make sure to do your research before ever reaching out to a journalist. If you are simply going down a mailing list and putting every journalist on BCC, you might get some bites, but your success with this strategy boils down to a matter of quantity versus quality. 

Research journalists and outlets to figure out which publications and writers are the best fit for your client to be featured in, and focus specifically on those beats. This research also allows your pitches to be more targeted and relevant, and more likely to be accepted.

One of the best things to do while pitching a journalist is to mention their recent work. While this might seem like a simple act, it goes a long way in showing journalists that you are actually pitching them, not just sending a mass pitch to every journalist on a mailing list. By mentioning another article they recently wrote that is relevant to the topic and client you are pitching, the journalist will know that you read their work and are taking care to pitch something relevant to them.

Additionally, ensure your pitch has two main characteristics: timeliness and relevance. Part of your job as a publicist is to keep up with current events and find angles that your clients can use to comment on these timely topics. If something is breaking news, chances are most journalists will write about it and are looking for experts to comment on the story. Take advantage of this urgent need, and pitch your clients to journalists on relevant current events.

Deliver on your promises

Once a journalist has accepted your pitch, it is vital that you be punctual, responsive, and dependable. If a journalist receives a pitch from you, they expect you to deliver. If you know your client is busy and won’t be able to provide an interview — or at least comments — then don’t pitch them. If you fail to deliver on what you have promised to the journalist, they will be far less likely to trust you in the future.

In the event that the journalist does not accept your pitch, don’t keep pushing back when they say no. Sometimes, you just miss out on an opportunity to someone else, or your client simply isn’t the best fit for a given opportunity, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your client won’t be ideal for a future placement. If you push too hard on a moot point, the journalist may become disillusioned and refuse to hear you out on future pitches.

Maintain the relationship

Once the article is live, take the opportunity to show your appreciation to the journalist. Reply with your thanks for including your client, and ask them to keep you in mind for future opportunities. 

Remember, the relationship between a journalist and a publicist should be mutually beneficial. If you don’t show your appreciation for the journalist’s work, they could think you just used them, and they may not want to work with you again in the future.

It’s also crucial to maintain the relationship with the journalist after they have delivered the article. Even if you don’t actively have anything to pitch them on, make sure you follow them on social media. Like, retweet, and comment on their work to show that you care about and are engaged with what they write. 

If you continue to stay engaged with journalists, they may be more inclined to contact you about future articles that your client might be a good fit for. Building a relationship with a journalist means you — and your client — could become a trusted, go-to source anytime they need further commentary for their stories, but effectively building a relationship like this takes time and effort. 

The most important thing to remember is that you must show journalists that you value their time and partnership. When you show this to them, chances are that they will be more likely to reciprocate this respect when it is shown to them.

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