The importance of building relationships with journalists
Working in PR is not simply about generating ideas. A lot of hard work is required to build relationships with journalists and that can be tricky to get right and also be time-consuming. You will need time to research, have room for trial and error and a lot of patience to ensure you are not another spammer in their inbox.
Thanks to social media platforms such as LinkedIn or Twitter, it is easier to find journalists, but it also means you are competing against many others for their valuable time.
I take a different approach to build a relationship compared to what many others may do. I care for the journalist by understanding their work and engaging with it if I find it useful. Below is the outline of the approach I take to engage with journalists.
But before you dive in, I will be completely honest with you – there is no quick method and there is never a time to bombard journalists with pitches. The relationship is not going to work if you do not care to ask about their needs. It has to go both ways.
Here is how I have built a network of journalists to work with:
Making initial contact
Times have changed and it is no longer necessary to send an email or get a journalist on the phone. LinkedIn is a great platform as it is specifically for work, so when you reach out to a journalist for the first time, they will see your job title and know exactly why you are connecting.
LinkedIn is great as a prospecting tool too, as you can search by company or job title. This allows you to find people at specific media outlets without knowing their name to start with. I recommend also reaching out to the same people on other platforms such as Twitter, so you can engage with them as much as possible.
When connecting, do not immediately send them a pitch. Either connect without a message or write a very simple one-liner explaining why you are connecting (e.g. same industry).
Building the connection slowly
Many journalists use Twitter or LinkedIn to share their work, so be sure to engage with it. It could be a simple ‘Like’ or a comment. But doing this slowly over time will make your name stick more when you do contact them.
Be sure to respond in the appropriate way. Do not simply ‘butter’ egos by saying they have done great work. Spend the time to read their work and respond in a meaningful way.
Once you’ve engaged with your new contacts a fair few times, reach out to them via a private message to talk directly.
You can direct and ask questions such as “if I had an idea, would you like to hear it?” or “what’s the best way for me to send you something that I think may be of interest?”.
Sending your pitch in their format
Once you have done the prior points, you should have a good understanding of the journalists you have connected with and the best ways to reach out to them with pitches.
For example, some may want you to phone them whereas others want a quick email outlining your ideas. You may also find that others want a full press release.
Relate back to your initial contact with journalists to rediscover the type of fields they mainly cover. Make sure the content of your pitch is relevant – that is absolutely key. Know the audience a journalist is writing for and send them copy that is compelling and resonates.
If you have built a professional relationship and succeeded in getting your content published, do not lose the connection. Keep building a strong rapport with them and continue to follow up. You can never have too many relationships with journalists and there will always come a time where you will need to call upon it. See it as an adventure rather than a quick fix.
The relationship roundup:
- Research journalists working in your industry
- Interact and comment on journalist’s tweets, blog posts or articles establishing yourself as someone they should engage with
- Socially engage with journalists and if social media is an acceptable manner, pitch to them. If not, stick to email
- Always follow up – do not let the connection die