Building relationships—whether they are personal or professional—is an art. It takes emotional intelligence, common sense, and patience. When it comes to working with the media, building strong relationships can feel a little like dating. Will you click? Can they count on you to come through in a pinch?
When I was a journalist, my favorite PR people were the ones who read my articles and pitched me stories that aligned with the subjects that I covered. They took the extra time to get to know me and would send me pitches on interesting trends or experts that I could rely on for future articles. They were also the ones who sent me materials quickly, anticipated my needs, and didn’t constantly flood my in-box with off-topic press releases.
Now that I’m on the PR side of that desk, I always think about how I can deliver value to my media contacts by offering great sources and timely story angles. The result: Long-term relationships, a few IRL friendships, and excellent results for my clients.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are a few tips for how you can develop successful, long-term relationships with the media, as well as a few pitfalls to avoid.
First impressions count. You have one chance to make a good first impression, make it a good one. The first time you reach out to a reporter, be sure you’ve done your homework. Spend time reading their articles and checking out their social media feeds so that you can craft a personal, smart introduction that shows you’ve put a little extra effort into getting to know them.
Don’t be “that guy or girl.” You know what I’m talking about. The potential suitor who doesn’t listen to what you have to say and forges ahead with his or her own agenda, regardless of social cues or your multiple excuses for why you can’t go out on a second date. Had they just listened a little better or asked questions, it might have been a good match (or at least a second date). The same holds true for pitching. You have to pay attention to what a reporter is interested in and then provide useful, relevant pitches, top-notch experts, and timely data and research.
It’s not them, it’s you. Want to sour a relationship with a reporter faster than you can say “Will you accept this rose?” Follow up incessantly, call repeatedly and don’t take no for an answer. Being overzealous and nagging isn’t going to get results and could end up landing you the blocked list.
Never ghost. One of the cornerstones of a good relationship with the media or anyone else for that matter is being reliable. If you say you’re going to deliver a quote from a client for a reporter’s deadline or have promised exclusive photos or a tip, it’s imperative that you come through. Disappearing, or frankly, even being late, can cause irreparable damage to your relationship.
Take it to the next level. Let’s say you’ve established a nice rapport with a new writer. You’ve sent over a few personalized, relevant pitches and have worked together on a few stories. Things are going great! What’s the next step? Think about what you can offer that no one else can. Maybe it’s access to an exclusive event or interview, or maybe it’s a preview of a new product. Get creative and think about how you can make your media friend’s job easier.