5 tactics for cultivating media relationships

Launching a pitch and wishing for coverage is like tossing a stone in the air and hoping to hit the moon. Instead, try these approaches for enduring partnerships with journalists in your niche.

The story is the cornerstone of every good pitch.

Journalists get hundreds of pitches each day. Most pitches are ignored, even when they’re well-written. They’re like banner ads; the sheer volume makes tune-out inevitable.

That’s why media relationships matter so much.

Building authentic rapport with a journalist helps you (and your brand) stand out amid a barrage of emails, DMs and phone calls.

It removes the friction and uncertainty that reporters encounter when dealing with an unknown brand or publicist. If you’ve provided them with a good tip or story in the past, maybe you’ll have something good this time around.

Unfortunately, building credible media relationships is harder than ever. The competition for a reporter’s time is fierce. Journalists are skeptical about thirsty PR and comms people.

So how can you build lasting bonds with journalists today? Try these approaches:

1. Play the long game. Real media relationships take time and effort, but PR pros and reporters want the same thing: to tell great stories. Plan on a courtship period. Grabbing a coffee has never created an instant friendship, but having multiple in-person meetings throughout the year, attending panels the reporter might be moderating, and interacting with him or her on social media channels help you forge real connections over time.  Once that bond is formed, it must be maintained like any other relationship.

2. Don’t be afraid of rejection. Some journalists will become your friends. Others just won’t want to get to know you; they might even come to hate you. If you’re in PR, you’ll have to overcome the fear of rejection. Ultimately, to get anywhere meaningful relationship-wise, PR pros must put themselves out there. You have to make the initial awkward invitations to have coffee, grab a drink or go to karaoke. (Never underestimate the power of poor singing to form bonds.)

3. Stop selling 24/7. A real relationship never feels transactional, and PR pros enjoy real relationships with journalists. If you approach every reporter interaction as if it’s a sales opportunity, you might get occasional coverage, but you won’t build a relationship that can deliver better stories with greater consistency. PR people and reporters often collaborate to create great stories. To get there, don’t grill them on what stories they’re working on; instead, find out what’s going on in their lives. Salesmanship has its place, but it shouldn’t be the centerpiece of your communications.

4. Promote their work. Journalists today are under pressure to generate views and clicks, and PR pros can help. Follow top journalists in your area, and share their stories with your own social networks. Try enlisting them to moderate a client’s event, such as a discussion panel—which also increases credibility for those clients.

5. Get out of the office. There are limits to how much rapport you can build by phone and email. Relationships take on another dimension when you run into someone in real life—at events, conferences, social outings, or a sit-down over coffee or something stronger. There’s no substitute for looking someone in the eye. Face-to-face interactions make you (and the reporter) more memorable. So, if you’re the shy type who likes to hole up in the office, you may be missing out on fun, productive media relationships.Top of Form

A version of this post first appeared on the Crenshaw Communications PR Fish Bowl blog.

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