How to Build Good Relationships with Journalists

Some colleagues and I recently participated in a professional development webinar hosted by Bulldog Reporter’s PR University, Real World PR. The session was called “90 Minutes to More Powerful Online and Telephone Pitches: How to Win Journalist’s Hearts and Make Your Placements Soar.” I walked away from the webinar with a fresh outlook on best practices for media pitching, and valuable lessons from some of the industry’s top professionals who’ve been doing this long enough to share their big success stories and occasional blunders that we can all learn from.

While there was a plethora of useful information presented, I found the tips on how to respect reporters and form successful media relations most intriguing. John Yocca, account supervisor and media strategist at Beckerman, was a perfect fit to lead this session given his career progression from journalism to public relations. His background as a journalist has given him insight into what makes reporters both light up and turn off. Any effective public relations campaign will have media relations as a key component, so here are some tips on how to connect with a reporter and gain traction:

1.       Read their stories and give feedback. Let the reporters know that you’re reading their stories by sending a quick email or Tweeting the article, even if it doesn’t mention your client. Getting in touch with them to compliment a recent story they wrote, rather than pushing a pitch on them, will be appreciated. They will remember this in the future and be more likely to respond and provide honest feedback in return.

2.       Respect their expertise.
If a reporter has been on a beet for several years, he/she is most likely already very knowledgeable about the general subject you’re pitching. Don’t send these reporters a pitch with basic information and risk insulting their intelligence and experience.

3.       Pick up the phone.
It can be very beneficial to put a voice and a personality behind the name and subject line that comes through in the reporter’s email inbox. This will help distinguish you from other PR professionals. You should always be respectful of a reporter’s time, but if you can build a rapport you may be able to get opinions on story ideas and pitches.

4.       Get personal.
Reporters have interests outside of what they write about, shocking as that may be. If you discover that you share a common passion, don’t be afraid to comment on it. Checking their Facebook and Twitter accounts can turn up some good personal insights…just keep it professional!

5.       Rapid response.
Figure out when your reporter typically gets back to your emails or calls, and be ready to respond quickly to them, even if it’s 10pm and all you send is a quick thank you. This will keep communications open, and make them more likely to remember you as a reliable source when they need one on deadline.

These tips are obviously not hard and fast rules, but I think they serve as excellent guidelines for methods of building relationships with journalists. Do you have any do’s and don’ts that help you establish and maintain good relationships with reporters? What have you done to get a reporter to respond to a pitch? Would love to hear your thoughts and feedback!


By, Lauren Sample | @laurensample

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