Although media relations is merely one aspect under the wider umbrella of public relations, it has always been the component that is most closely associated with the best recognized tenant of PR: pitching stories. While this association may ring true on a surface level, there is so much more that goes into media relations than just press releases that it seems unfair to simplify such a complex song and dance.
Establishing good media relations takes equal parts savvy, persistence, research and time. And a little bit of good timing never hurt either.
Here are a few tips for forging a relationship that works, not just in the interim but for the long term.
Make the introduction – Do your homework and identify the key journalists that you need to know and will likely be at the top of your rolodex. Research some of their past stories and get a good handle on their beat. Follow them on social media, retweeting anything relevant or interesting.
Once you’re comfortable, shoot them an email to introduce yourself, letting them know some of the relevant clients that you handle and any interesting things that you’re working on that might be of interest to them. If you’ve done your homework, you’ll be able to subtly make the association between what you’re working on and where their interests lie. Now, you’ve become an ally.
This shouldn’t be a sales pitch, but more of an informal greeting that has some relevant information for them to store away for future reference, no response required (a journalist’s favorite kind of email). Not everyone is going to write you back and ask you to grab coffee, but you’ve at least planted the seed and gotten your name on their radar.
It’s not your audience, but THEIR audience – You have to make sure the crux of your story is something that will appeal not to just the writer, but their audience. If you’ve done your homework, this will come more naturally, but it’s something that is often taken for granted. Is that audience consumers? Business leaders and executives? Someone might be a ‘business writer’ by title, but that can mean a lot of things. Make sure you know who that audience is in order for your story to resonate.
Craft a story, not a sales pitch – Every day, journalists are inundated with press releases and story ideas. The difference between a well-crafted, personalized pitch and a generic and transparent catch-all can be the difference between forging a lasting relationship or ending up in the spam folder.
So if you want to get out of a journalist’s Deleted Items folder and onto their Christmas card list (though a simple response will probably suffice), make sure you are helping them craft a story. Don’t just give them the facts, give them an angle that will interest their readers. Position yourself as a resource to help them do their job. In this 24/7 news cycle, journalists are constantly looking for story ideas. If you’ve done your homework, laid the groundwork and crafted a relevant story, you’ve become an invaluable resource, and with time, a trusted contact.
Nurture the relationship – Getting an initial response from a journalist is the hardest part. Once you’ve gotten your foot in the door and established a relationship, make sure not to let it lapse. Like any good relationship, it will require a little TLC and attention in order to flourish. Exercising good judgment so as not to be too pushy, make sure you are pitching them on any other relevant stories. This could be a conversational email about some things you have coming up on the horizon, to see if anything interests them. If it makes sense, offer them an exclusive idea or first dibs on a story. And always make sure to reply to any of their queries in a prompt matter and keep your pitches short and to the point.
Relationships take time to develop and patience to nurture. Your thoughtfulness and creativity will go a long way in helping expedite the process and to form mutually beneficial alliances that provide real results.