Developing and building strong relationships with reporters is essential for any person looking to work and have a successful career in public relations.
This is not a shocking reality, as the success of all public relations professionals requires crafting strategic PR campaigns and gaining the right media coverage for their clients. Naturally, the relationships that a publicist is able to create with reporters will have a direct impact on that person’s success and ability to effectively do their job.
So how does a PR professional go about the process of becoming close with a reporter and developing a strong relationship? It is not as simple as you may think. Looking up a reporter’s email address and asking them if they would like to be your friend and provide great media coverage for your clients will get very little when trying to build a relationship with a reporter. However, there are several tips that any publicist can take advantage of that will have reporters remembering your name, but the names of your clients as well.
Here are some of our most successful tactics:
Be familiar with a reporter’s work. For God’s sake, please make it an “office rule” to read a reporter’s last three articles before you pitch them to make sure they are the appropriate contact. Don’t count on your database for the precision required to land a placement. And make sure they haven’t already written an article on something you are about to pitch them!
Help a reporter out by feeding them reliable sources — never pitch them something or someone that doesn’t have merit because of client pressure — you will burn an important media relationship in the end. Instead become a valuable resource to them. And when they reach out with a request — even if it doesn’t serve any of your clients — help them get the information and source they need so they continue to come to you when you do have a client that fits the bill.
Do not write a pitch longer than 2 sentences. Seriously. No one has time to read your long email and attached press release. If you can’t explain what you have in a few sentences then you shouldn’t be a publicist. And if a reporter is interested in your story idea –they will ask for more information. The trick is to get the dialogue going.
Don’t be afraid of a little face time. Most of our correspondence during the workday is by email and phone. And while lots of relationships can be created — nothing replaces face to face. Look for opportunities to meet reporters and producers such as conferences, meet and greets, or inviting someone out to lunch. It’s worth the time and money. And they give you an opportunity to get in front of a media contact without a specific ask.
Wish them Happy Birthday, Happy Holiday, Happy New Year. Ask them if they are okay if you don’t hear from them for a while. If something happens within their company or industry, check in with them. Show a little caring. Treat them like you would a friend.
Don’t just write a reporter when you need something or you have a pitch — be a value-add to them. If you see an article you think they may be interested in — send it to them. Or if they write a story you like — write back and tell them. Send emails without asks in between your pitches — that’s how you build a relationship!
Always follow up. Circle back the day after a pitch to check in and see if they are interested in the story. The first email may have gotten lost in their inbox.
Always remember a NO is not necessarily a NO. Let’s face it, most reporters who aren’t interested in your story idea don’t even write back, so the conversation is over. But then there’s that small group who write back to say no. When they do, it presents a perfect opportunity for you to start a relationship with them. Write back and thank them for their candor and response. Ask them what they are working on. Ask them if it’s okay for you to pitch them story ideas in the future. Just get the dialogue going.