Media relations is one of the core pillars of Public Relations. It’s all well and good writing an engaging press release or undertaking an insightful research campaign, but if you can’t articulate the key premise of a story to the press then your work will only go so far.
While some take to media relations like a duck to water, other people need to put time and effort into improving their phone manner and rapport with journalists.
Having worked in PR for six years, I've learned some vital lessons about how to forge lasting relationships with journalists. In this blog, I identify a number of techniques that help PR professionals be successful when it comes to media relations. While you don’t necessarily need to possess all these traits, I do believe that the more boxes you can tick, the better your chances of gaining meaningful coverage for your client.
Any media relations professional has to be hungry for news and proactive in finding stories for their client. Whether it’s identifying newsjacks that a client can comment on or suggesting alternative angles for a story that will pique a journalist’s interest. By keeping on top of the news, you’ll discover so many more opportunities to secure coverage for clients and become a trusted source of information.
Top tip: Set up a notification system for the news that you’re interested in, whether it’s through an RSS feed, like Feedly or Inoreader, or with Google Alerts. By having regular updates on the latest breaking news, it is easier to identify possible newsjack opportunities and react quickly to write and distribute comments from your client.
If you’re confident in your pitch and you believe in the story that you are selling-in, you’ll not only stand out from the crowd but instil confidence in the journalist too. By knowing your pitch and journalist, you’ll be able to convey the right enthusiasm and include the right hook in your pitch.
Essentially, if you believe in your story, then you’re more likely to convince the journalist to believe in it too!
Top tip: If you're struggling with remembering all the key points and details, write down and refer to the summarising bullet points to ensure you get across everything you need to in your pitch.
Resilience is a crucial trait for any aspiring media relations professional. There will be times when a journalist is busy and hasn’t got the time to chat. There will be other times when just getting hold of them on the phone is nigh on impossible. You shouldn’t let this get you down.
You will need to stay resilient and confident in what you have to say (when you eventually get to say it). Hang in there and don’t be afraid to make that call.
Top tip: Don't overdo following up with journalists. Journalists are busy people and take calls from PRs and other sources multiple times a day. You will need to make sure you’re ready with a concise and engaging pitch when you do get the chance to speak to them: the key is to hustle, not hassle.
It is always worth researching the journalist you are pitching. The worst thing you can do is pitch a story to a journalist that isn't relevant to their beat. Follow them on Twitter. Read their previous articles. Do enough background research to make sure that you are pitching the right person at the right publication.
Top tip: Read some of the journalist’s previous articles. By doing so, you can reference that you’ve read their work and that’s why you think your story will be of interest. By showing that you’ve put in the time to understand what makes them tick, the journalist will be much more receptive to what you have to say.
Build relationships with your journalists
Ultimately, while the days of boozy lunches with journalists may be over, it’s still important to maintain good contact and relationships with journalists. It’s important to stay on top of their updates, know what they are currently interested in, and the types of stories they like to write.
By having a relationship with a journalist, it’ll be easier to pick up the phone and chat with them, and it’s more likely they will take an extra minute to read, and maybe even reply to, your emails.
The relationship between journalists and PRs works both ways, and by understanding how journalists like to work, you’ll build the foundations for a great relationship and a successful pitching future.
Find out how Resonance can help your business build better relationships with journalists by getting in touch with us.