For PR professionals, developing relationships with journalists is like a fine wine or a waltz. If done correctly, great success is achieved. But when it’s handled poorly, it can knock you off your feet, spilling the red wine all down the front of your formal waltzing attire.
At Aspectus PR, we pride ourselves on establishing sound relationships with the media. It’s crucial for our clients and for our business.
In the following, we’ve listed five top tips for cultivating connections with reporters on behalf of your clients:
1. Keep it simple
Do you ever have those moments of panic, nausea, and/or blurred vision when you receive what seems like a Charles Dickens-length email in your inbox? Keeping pitches tight and concise can be inversely correlated to your success with the media. The longer and more mundane your email is, the less inclined the journalist will be to respond. Be snappy with the news or storyline, relate it back to the particular writer’s beat and why it’s interesting to them, and elaborate a tad. (There’s no need to list out everything you had to eat that day or the names of your last three pets.)
2. Reporters aren’t robots, and neither are you
It’s important to be professional when building rapport with the media, but that doesn’t mean you have to sound like a robot. A little bit of friendly reporter/PR banter can be healthy for a budding relationship. If you find out they were out of the office on vacation, it’s perfectly normal to ask them how their trip was and where they went. Finding connections through hobbies and interests like travel can propel your relationship forward with that reporter, and they’ll be more inclined to discuss your pitches in the future.
3. “If you build it, they will come”
Though we’re referencing the iconic quote from the hit 1989 movie Field of Dreams, we aren’t recommending that a strong journalist relationship means that you plow down a bunch of corn crops in the middle of Iowa to build a baseball diamond. Instead, help journalists hone their story. If they liked your pitch, build out the story with commentary from industry analysts or talking clients. The power of being able to provide multiple sources is not lost on a media guru.
4. Tweet. Tweet. Tweet.
Connecting with journalists isn’t done just through emails, phone calls and drinks anymore. Reach out to them in the social media universe, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. More often than not, journalists will be commentating on beat-related topics, but their posts might also give you an inside track as to where their next story is coming from. Helping to craft a story off of their recent observations made through social media is organic and less rigid than the traditional way of building out a relationship through emails and phone calls – and you avoid the risk of your pitch getting lost in their inbox.
5. What’s the magic word?
A simple “thank you” can go a long way. Journalists often take time out of their day to conduct interviews, travel to a meet and greet, and attend events held by your clients. Sending a quick email to acknowledge this shows you appreciate them devoting time to you and your client. In a world where PR pros are constantly in action, niceties are critical to maintaining a pleasant relationship with the media.
The above tips don’t necessarily mean that you’ll instantly accelerate your relationships with journalists as if you were on The Bachelorette (although what better way to bond than to hang glide off of a mountaintop and land in a field of roses where you are greeted immediately by champagne and caviar?). Time plays a factor in harvesting these connections. If you remain friendly, professional, and take a few of the tips above to heart, you’ll build a great foundation on which your media relationships can grow and flourish.