Journalists and PR professionals go together like peas and carrots (thanks, Forrest) – or at least we should. After all, without the media, where would public relations pros be? And conversely, journalists would have to do a bit more legwork without a little PR push now and again.
As PR practitioners at a technology marketing company, there are several important groups of people that we interact with on a daily basis, from clients and investors to customers and influencers. And while the relationships we form with journalists and the media are arguably the most crucial, they can often be the most complicated.
To put things in perspective, public relations professionals outnumber media representatives by about 4.6 to 1. It can often be a challenge to get a reporter’s attention and to get your client’s news and messaging in front of the right people. That’s why once a relationship with a journalist is established, it’s important to nurture that connection accordingly.
So, what does it take to maintain relationships with the media? In honor of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists Conference this week, we’re taking a deeper dive into a few techniques that PR pros can practice on a daily basis to keep those bonds strong.
Treat them like you would a first date
Media relations is like dating, and everyone should know how to treat someone on a date. First and foremost, it’s about connection. If you want the media to open your pitch, make sure it connects with them. Get to know them and their interests before sending out a pitch that doesn’t appeal to them or their beat. There are few things that journalists dislike more than a blanket pitch with no personalization – except for a pitch that doesn’t pertain to the subjects they cover.
Without making that initial connection, your chances of going on a second date – or in this case, your chances of having the reporter cover your news – are slim at best. Be polite, provide accurate intel, and show gratitude.
It’s called media relations for a reason; you need to develop a relationship for it to be successful. It’s important to keep in mind that the people receiving your pitches are just that – people – and piquing their interests with news and story ideas relevant to their readership will also deliver a better ROI.
Let them know that their time matters
As I mentioned before, PR pros greatly outnumber journalists, who are most likely getting hundreds – if not thousands – of emails each day. Make sure you’re giving them what they want, when they want it, and in a way that doesn’t waste their time. This goes right back to PR 101 – start with the lede, and give them all of the most important details, specifically as it pertains to them, right up front.
It’s also important to follow up in a timely manner, but more than anything, respect boundaries. Reporters are busy people, so make sure to give them enough time to read your information – i.e., don’t send a follow up before they’ve had time to read your original message, or worse, don’t send a pitch after the story is old news.
Forget the phone
Oh, the times they are a changing. PR pros used to hit the phones for the majority of our pitching just a few years ago. But today, it’s becoming more and more frowned upon, as busy journalists prefer email, or even various social media platforms, as their main means of contact. In the PR world, everyone is online, and while using the phone might get a reporter’s attention, you’re also at risk of wasting their time and damaging the relationship. Trust us on this one – hang up the phone, and hit the keyboard instead.
The fact of the matter is, the media is our bloodline. They are the reason public relations practitioners – and more importantly, our clients – are successful. It is absolutely essential to our practice to form true, lasting connections with journalists and make for a prosperous business relationship.