"What's the story, Norm?"

TypewriterFostering relationships with media has always been the crucial backbone in successful PR careers. Today, more than ever, that still rings true.


It’s undeniable that the job description for PR professionals has evolved over the years. However, as our scope of work broadens, media relations is still the bread and butter of our industry. In nearly every discovery meeting I participate in with new clients, the discussion of wanting to be in the Wall Street Journal or sitting on Oprah’s couch is mentioned.


Earned media is more important to brands than ever, yet with the transition taking place in newsrooms and decline in print media, it can also be as challenging as ever. According to the book The Death and Life of American Journalism, there are 4.6 public relations specialists for each reporter employed in the U.S., and this number is rising. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 22.5 percent growth in the PR world between 2010 and 2020.


Nearly every journalist you ask, the volume of pitches that they receive on a daily basis is at an all time high. The best way for you to stand out amongst the clutter is by building a relationship with the reporter, to make your name stand out to them. Don’t believe me, see for yourself:


“The best ones (PR professionals) establish relationships with journalists, who I know and can count on.  If I’m having a slow news day I can call them.  Have a couple [stories] in your back pocket.”

~Stacey Cohan, CNN reporter


“The only way to really work with me….and NO one bothers. Get to know me! Ask for a few minutes of my time, let’s schedule them, and then find out the various markets I’m currently pitching to; the kinds of stories I need and let’s see if there is a fit.”

~Caitlin Kelly, NY Times


“The New York Times’s Andrew Ross Sorkin, The Wall Street Journal’s Peter Kafka, CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo, Bloomberg News, Reuters, the FT and countless others – including local media outlets — frequently turn to those in the PR profession they’ve come to trust for delivering timely and accurate information.”

~Peter Himler, Forbes Contributor


How do you build these relationships, you ask? It’s actually easy and straightforward (and more PR people need to do it) . . .

  • Read their coverage. Learn what they cover, their interests, tone, etc.
  • Interact with them on social media. A recent report from Indiana University found that nearly 80 percent of journalists said they regularly use social networking sites to stay on top of recent developments. They package everything up for you on a silver platter, including their coverage, needs for stories, personal interests, etc.
  • Invite them out for coffee or lunch. Take the time to introduce yourself, your clients or company and learn what they are most interested in. Provide recommendations or ideas, regardless if it benefits you personally.
  • Ask how you can help them. If an in-person meeting isn’t feasible, send them an email introduction; ask what they are working on and how you can help. Once they respond, then use that opportunity to pitch a client or story, ONLY IF IT’S RELEVANT.


And, like all relationships, it’s important to work on it. Don’t let it be one-sided. Make sure both parties are contributing a give/take balance. Some of my biggest successes during my career have been made possible through the relationships I have formed with journalists, examples HERE, HERE and HERE.


What advice do you have for building relationships with media?



About Colleen Murphy

Colleen Murphy is an Account Director at Trevelino/Keller, where she supports clients in the green, lifestyle, consumer tech, retail and automotive spaces. She is a new mom, avid reader, amateur chef and an all-round sports fan – Go Noles!

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