6 essentials for cultivating great media relationships

Relationships with reporters are just like any other friendship. Without care and effort, it will wither. Here’s how to rekindle the spark.

This article originally appeared  on PR Daily in June of 2018.

For a PR professional, keeping track of your media relationships takes time and careful consideration—and a steady flow of compelling story ideas.

If you’ve got a pitch that’s new and exciting and begging to be told, you’re set. But if your pitch is the PR equivalent of one of those annoying sales calls we all loathe, you’ve got a challenge.

Try pretending you’re on the receiving end and ask yourself, “Would I be interested in this story?” If you would, pitch it. If not, make it better. Remember, it’s not only your job to make the story compelling, but more importantly, you should strive to make the reporter’s job as easy and seamless as possible, resulting in a story or coverage that makes your client happy.

In addition to pitching news-worthy stories, the key to media relations rests within the larger realm of human relations: being professional, courteous, reliable and respectful. Successful media relations flows from the relationships you create, nurture and maintain.

Consider these six guidelines to strengthen your bonds with journalists:

1. Know the what, why and who of your pitch.

Before you get started, do your homework. Learn as much as you can about the topic and its significance. Make sure you’ve properly profiled your client as a subject-matter expert.

No need to become the world’s greatest expert, but at least aim for conversational knowledge. Get to know the reporter’s area of interest—their beat—and become ultra-familiar with their writing and style. Craft your message to fit that style.

2. Aim for a long-term relationship rather than a quick media pitch.

Let them know they can come to you for more than this one idea. Put together a short list of relevant experts and topics to be considered for future stories. Take the time to explain your client’s relevance to their beat.

3. Show a genuine interest in their work.

Everyone likes to receive praise, especially reporters and editors. Send periodic emails to let them how much you enjoyed what they wrote and how much you learned.

Regularly share their stories on social media outlets to show that you are helping to expand their reach and get their work in front of a larger audience. This will also help them to become more familiar with you as a PR professional and increase the likelihood that they open your emails when they come through.

4. Earn a reputation for pitching worthy stories.

Sure-fire themes for news stories have scarcely changed since the dawn of the printing press. Look for stories that tell gripping tales of surprise, relevance, scandal, hypocrisy, wrongdoing, outrage, conflict—and these days the latest in tech innovation.

5. Be persistent, but not annoying.

Don’t follow up too often or too soon. Send one follow up message after a week, and maybe a second if the story is still relevant.

Do not give the reporter a reason to think you are annoying/burdensome. When calling a reporter, always ask whether it’s a good time to talk. When you do get a reporter’s attention, be succinct and don’t over complicate your pitch.

6. Never overpromise.

If you tell an editor, writer or producer that you’ll get back to them, do so. If you promise to send an editor an article or background information that features your client by a certain deadline, do it. If you can’t make a deadline, be ready to explain why and don’t make excuses. Just provide the goods.

Shannon Falotico is a communications specialist at Circa Interactive, a digital marketing agency specializing in higher education.

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