Stand Out from the Crowd: 3 Rules for Building Better Relationships with Journalists

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Michiko Morales

In 1971 Edward Bernays, the father of public relations said, “Public relations, effectively used, helps validate an underlying principle of our society–competition in the market place of ideas and things.”

Fast forward 35 years, and that same philosophy still holds true in modern day PR. With the advent of modern technology and new social media platforms springing up faster than we can keep track of, PR practitioners must devise innovative ways to break through the clutter and earn opportunities to convey their messages.

During my short career in financial, consumer and technology PR, one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is to create and maintain strong relationships with the media–specifically, reporters, TV and radio producers, bloggers and other influencers who act as gatekeepers to your target audience. Without the right influencer in your corner, your message often remains stagnant and undelivered.

So the obvious question becomes, how do you go about recruiting these key influencers to your side of the fence?

Rule 1: Research, Research and Research Some More

As a rule of thumb, remember to research the reporter and never forget to do your homework before you pick up your phone to pitch. Read up on what reporters have been writing about and what kind of stories or topics that have appeared in the media recently. There’s nothing worse than pitching a story to a reporter that is completely irrelevant to his or her interests.

PR professionals all too often take the easy way out and send a mass pitch to reporters without any information tailored to why the journalist on the receiving end should take interest. As PR practitioners, it’s our responsibility to learn everything we can about a news outlet and reporter before we pitch an idea, as well as find a creative way to make that piece of news as novel and customized to targeted media as possible.

Another way to get on reporters’ radars is to read articles they’ve previously written and share their content through social media. That way, once you’re ready to send your pitch, there’s a better chance they just might recognize your name and look twice when your email arrives in their inbox.

Rule 2: Separate News from the Noise

For the sake of defining what we as PR folk do day in and day out, our ultimate goal is to earn publicity for our clients by sharing interesting news about a person, topic, product or service that attracts the attention of the media. Plain and simple, right? While sometimes this is easier said than done, there are strategic ways of going about attracting media attention.

For starters, it’s critical for us to explain to reporters what makes our stories relevant now. Some ways you can create unique hooks include: expanding on a particular trend or topic that is hot in the media at the time with a new twist, personal story or an unintended consequence or impact; localizing a national story or nationalizing a local story; and taking the “underdog” opinion if you’re seeking a one-sided media conversation about a particular topic.

To successfully complete this PR dance, you must gracefully master the balance of not appearing too self-promotional, while ensuring your message is on target, strategically positioned and a vital part of the story. It’s a fine line–your goal is certainly not to toot your own horn; instead your focus should be on adding to a topic with a new perspective or insight. 

Rule 3: Be Human

Every pitch, phone conversation, tweet, status update or coffee meeting with a reporter is an opportunity to create a connection. After all, reporters are people, too, so get to know them as such. Learn about them both personally and professionally, if you can. Listen to what interests they might have or what drives them.

You’ll begin to have more success once you realize that people are individuals with their own lives, concerns and deadlines, and your role is to know what will help them perform their job better. It’s our responsibility to remain cognizant of that aspect of the business and to never forget the human relations portion of our profession. Maybe your news isn’t relevant to that reporter at that very moment. But by picking up the phone and taking the time to listen and build a relationship with that right reporter, you’ve already increased your chances of them reaching back out in the future if they need a source.

As a technology marketing agency, we’re dedicated to not only maintaining relationships, but also blazing new paths and exceeding our clients’ expectations. What’s even better–we love what we do! Drop us a line and ask how GMG can help define or create your marketing and PR efforts to move your business to the next level. We promise to make you stand out!

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Leah Nurik