Every professional knows the importance of networking to build solid business relationships. Unfortunately, not everyone gets it right, often mistaking the “hard sell” for making connections. It’s not just about self-promotion and passing out business cards.
The same holds true for media relations. Almost any tip you find on networking is also a great tip for media relations. It makes sense, as media relations is all about building relationships and establishing connections.
To demonstrate, let’s take a look at “24 Networking Tips that Actually Work
” from James Clear of Passive Panda. You can read more about how each tip relates to networking in the original article, but here is how they translate to production relationships with journalists and bloggers:
1. The goal of networking is to help other people.
The most important rule for pitching a story idea is to provide value. Sure, it’s nice to get coverage, but if you truly aim to be a resource, the media coverage will be a natural byproduct.
2. Understand their needs before telling them about yours.
You can’t help people if you don’t know what they need. Listen first, understand what your media contacts are looking for, and then help them get there.
3. You don’t need to know the most people, just the right people.
Reaching out to everyone in the Cision database, or “spray and pray” doesn’t cut it. You may get a few responses, but they’re less likely to be from the outlets you really want. Less coverage from the right outlets with the audience you’re actually trying to reach will have a greater impact. Focus on fortifying relationships with writers and influencers who really matter to your brand.
4. Don’t expect anything.
Our hope is always that journalists will respond to our pitches and we’ll earn coverage. But remember the goal of providing value and being a resource. If you’ve done your homework, crafting good pitches
and delivering the information journalists need without expectation, you’ll yield results.
5. Don’t leave it to chance.
Just because you’re pitching without expectation doesn’t mean you should cross your fingers and hope it was enough. Research your contacts beforehand, spend the time writing a relevant pitch, and follow up appropriately. Good things come to those who do the work.
6. Go beyond your industry.
Get creative. You may focus primarily on one industry, but there are other audiences that are sure to find value in your offer. Your goal is to find the angle that resonates and to build a broader awareness for your brand.
7. Start by offering praise, not requesting help.
Who doesn’t love flattery? Be cautious about being too personal or friendly if you don’t know the person, but there’s no harm in telling them that you think their work is great. Cite specific examples so they know you’ve actually been reading their stuff.
8. Keep emails short.
Opening an email and getting hit in the face with a huge block of text is daunting for everyone, especially journalists. Keep it simple.
9. Try to provide as much value as you can.
Seriously, be valuable. Answer questions. Solve problems. Be a beneficial resource to make the writer’s job easier.
10. Nurture your established network.
Though it’s great to expand your network and build new relationships, don’t forget about the contacts you already have. As with any relationship, it takes work. Keep sharing their stories, giving them valuable information, and interacting on social channels to keep the magic alive.
11. Don’t take “no” personally.
Not everything you pitch will be a fit every time. Use “no” as an opportunity to gain insight as to what that person actually wants and needs.
12. Make it a point to follow up.
If you don’t get a response after a few business days, you can and should follow up—but be sure to do it right. Reply to the original email you sent, so that information is still readily accessible, and keep it short. Try to add something new as well, like an interview opportunity, a graphic or a user testimonial. If you don’t have something specific to offer, just quickly ask whether there is anything else they need from you to move forward with the story.
Improving media relations takes more than 12 steps, but these tips can help you initiate and maintain real conversations and relationships with journalists at your targeted media outlets.
Ashley Sherman is the director of digital media relations for Relevance, an online marketing agency in Indianapolis. A version of this story originally appeared on the company's blog.