Media Training, Public Relations

How to Build Lasting Relationships with the Media

By Carol Lee | On April 1, 2014

Even after several years in the PR industry, I still enjoy “meet the press” events. These events are great opportunities to meet journalists and learn more about how your clients potentially align with the topics they cover. Most importantly, they provide critical information on how specific reporters prefer to work with PR practitioners.

I recently attended a media luncheon hosted by the Publicity Club of New York, and came back with substantial insight from a handful of reporters at top-tier media outlets. Below are three of their tips – straight from the mouths of journalists – on how to build lasting relationships with them.

1. Know Who You’re Pitching
Though it’s an old adage among PR pros, the imperative to know whom you’re pitching cannot be overstated. In fact, this was the number one piece of advice shared by every reporter. Regardless of the topic you’re pitching, understanding the reporter’s exact beat is crucial to the success of landing that story idea. Before contacting a reporter, ask the following questions:

  • What do they cover? What have they covered recently?
  • Do their articles include a lot of stats? Quotes? Images?
  • Do they like to be pitched over the phone or do they prefer email?
  • Do they have a social media presence? Are they on Twitter? LinkedIn?
  • What is their personality like – Casual? Formal? Active? Quiet?
  • What are their hobbies?

Getting to know a reporter will allow you to personalize your pitch to their specific area of coverage as well play to their personalities.

2. Don’t Forget the Woo Factor
Journalists recommend working on relationships. Don’t be afraid to touch base every once in a while to see what the reporters you’re targeting are covering. Even if you don’t have anything to pitch at the moment, take them out for lunch or coffee and you’ll gain a wealth of knowledge and information from the conversation and possibly your next pitch idea! Play to their likes and dislikes. But most importantly, don’t be afraid to be human. Does a specific reporter you’re communicating with like burgers? Invite him to lunch at a nearby burger joint. If you discover that a specific journalist has a passion for modern art, share a link to a new exhibit at the MoMA.

Given the speed at which the media moves it’s easy for relationships with reporters to become routine and transactional. Developing human relationships with journalists can certainly go a long way towards building the trust and rapport necessary to be regarded as a go-to source for information.

3. Stand out from the Crowd
Reporters sort through hundreds of emails a day. It’s no surprise then that reporters skim subject lines to vet which emails to open and which to trash. As a result, it’s essential to try and grab their attention with the subject line alone. Beyond the subject line, when crafting your pitch, be creative and bold, but most importantly, be concise.

To make sure your pitch stands out from the crowd, ask yourself the following:

  • Would you open the email based on your subject line?
  • Is what you’re pitching in line with what they cover?
  • Can you explain your idea in less than 3 sentences?
  • Is what you’re sharing newsworthy?
  • Can you provide the reporter with useful information or sources?
  • Can you tie in relevant statistics or current events?
  • Is your spokesperson reliable? Can h/she be counted on to commit to an interview?
  • Does h/she have a significant social media presence?

All these factors may help pique the reporter’s interest to commit to an interview and ensure you’ll be kept top-of-mind for relevant stories down the road.

When it comes to media relations it’s not just about establishing a connection with a reporter. Maintaining a relationship over time will be the key to driving consistent results for your clients. To build relationships with reporters that last, understand whom you’re pitching, be assertive in getting to know the journalist, and make an impression.

Carol Lee

Carol is a Sr. Account Supervisor at Affect, where she manages account programs and provides clients with strategic counsel. As a public relations and corporate communications professional, Carol develops and executes media relations, branding and marketing campaigns for her clients in both the B2B and consumer spaces. Prior to joining Affect, Carol was a senior account executive at Rogers & Cowan, a premier global entertainment and technology firm, where she led successful public relations activities for various clients in the technology, digital and interactive entertainment sectors.