How to Cultivate Great Relationships with Media Partners

Media Relations
media relations 19.12.18

There’s a reputation out there that journalists sort of have a love-hate relationship with PR professionals. Sure, it’s a popular assumption, but when both parties know their job and do it right, the connection can be very positive for both sides.

It begins with building and nurturing a relationship. When you’re a PR pro, you need journalists. And when you’re a journalist, you come to rely on communicators and connections to sources and leads you need to write and file your stories. Because this is a two-sided conversation, mistakes can be made, creating tension and misunderstandings, while damaging important relationships.

In the end, though, if you’re in public relations and you want to be successful, it’s your responsibility to initiate and nurture the media connections that will work for your clients. Here are some tips to help you be successful in that work.

Relate Before You Pitch

Journalists hate being spammed by PR people they never heard of about topics they couldn’t care less about. Yet people still do it all the time. Instead, work to cultivate key relationships with journalists who speak directly to your chosen audience. Then, when the time comes to make a pitch, they will actually read and consider it.

Pitch Stories They’re Looking For

Every reporter, even if they don’t have a beat, has a sweet spot for certain topics, as well as times during the year they will be more receptive to stories on certain topics. Get this information before you click “send” on a pitch. Not only will the reporter be more receptive if you send them something they would prefer writing about, you may end up being the person who gives them just the right story at just the right time, someone they will remember next time they have a blank space they need to fill fast.

Be Clear in Your Expectations

Sometimes, you need a story told in a certain way at a certain time. Some journalists, especially those with whom you do not have a relationship, will run whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want. This could turn a good, timely news item into a spoiler for your clients. To avoid this, work with journalists who will honor your embargoes and be very specific about your expectations. They may not always be honored exactly, but if you invested the time in the relationship, and you are clear about your expectations, the odds are much more likely to work out in your favor.

Take Time to Understand Their Preferences

Do your media partners like email or text? Are they always on social media or do they prefer snail mail? You don’t know if you don’t ask, and that ignorance could be the difference between getting a headline and being ignored. Sure, some reporters can be flaky and tough to read, but all of them have a general preference. It just takes a moment to ask.

Make the First Move Without Presumption

Just because you know your worth and value as a professional communicator, does not mean that everyone else will just take it for granted that you’re a valuable source. You need to be proactive without presumption. Sure, some reporters play favorites, but how did those PR people get to be favorites in the first place? Don’t let initial rebuffs put you off. Be polite but persistent, do your research and find a way to connect. Yes, it takes time and it takes effort, but it’s better than never making that connection to a media resource that could prove to be very valuable for your clients.

While following these guidelines won’t guarantee your success as a PR professional, they will certainly put you in a better position to succeed.

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