If you work in the field of public relations, advertising, even marketing, it’s inevitable that you will need to interact (i.e. get along) with the media to some degree. In fact, it’s absolutely to your advantage to forge real relationships – you know, the kind where you know a little bit about each other and try to help each other out, rather than just use one another.
But this can feel like a daunting task, especially if you are just beginning your career. The most critical thing you should remember is that members of the media are people, too. They’re not out to “get you” and hearing “no thanks” surely won’t kill you. So why not play nice and get something of mutual value out of it? Here are my six top tips for growing a meaningful relationship with media contacts.
- Become a (genuine) fan.
I’m not referring to Twitter (though following media contacts on social media isn’t the worst place to start). Rather, I’m talking about learning what beats each reporter regularly covers. Read their work, make note of topics that could relate to one or more of your clients, and most importantly give credit where credit is due. Recently a reporter used a press release I sent him to heavily and favorably cover one of my client’s issues. He included quotes I provided in the release, and he also sought out quotes from local individuals to fully flesh out the article. I truly appreciated his thoroughness. So I wrote him an email. I thanked him for using pieces of our press release and applauded him for seeking out additional quotes beyond a single source. He was flattered. As a result of this small step toward building a relationship, I feel like I can now reach out to him directly to pitch my next story.
- Take advantage of networking opportunities.
If you’re on the lookout for them, you will find that there are some very valuable networking opportunities to be had with members of the media. As a member of the Pennsylvania Public Relations Society (PPRS), I attended a recent meeting that was a “speed dating” mixer with just about every local media outlet represented. I was sure not to miss this event! As a result, I got great advice, lots of business cards and a handful of valuable invitations to “Pitch me anything you can think of!” I’ve already taken advantage of this for some of my clients. I can’t stress enough that meaningful media relationships, especially ones you can make face-to-face, will make your job easier, save you from the unknown and make you look like a rock star to your clients.
- Don’t hide your motives.
When you introduce yourself to a member of the media as a public relations professional, it’s pretty hard to hide your motives. After all, we are paid for our earned media placement and the gatekeepers to this are members of the media. Rather than being coy, I have found that being direct, honest and humble goes a lot further. I try to find a way to make light of the conversation, but also cut right to the chase. The media is hungry for quality content, and we have incentive to provide exactly that! Don’t hide your motives. Let the media know what you want, and they can then tell you what they need.
- Provide quality, ready-to-publish content.
Being friendly and professional with the media will help you make initial contact and get their attention, but what you do once they’re listening is the most important part of forming a lasting relationship. You must deliver quality, ready-to-publish content – or at least accurate and useful news tips that they can turn into their own story. If you prove to be anything but a reliable source, don’t wonder why members of the media stop answering your phone calls and emails. Proof and fact check your content, be responsive and go the extra mile to make yourself a valuable resource.
- Be proactive with your pitch.
When trying to get publicity for your clients, don’t wait for the opportunity to come knocking on your door. It reasonably won’t. Another piece of growing media relationships is to be proactive with your pitch. Reach out to them early and often. Sell them on the value of your idea. Help connect the dots so they can see how your story relates to their readership and their reporting style.
- Ask how you can help.
Most important, be genuinely interested in learning how you can help a reporter out. Ask them what topics or beats they’re covering right now and what some upcoming topics might be. You may be in position to lend some expertise, or to hook them up with a contact who can. Build a relationship based on trust and reliability. The more your media contacts know they can turn to you as a “connector” to help piece a story together, the more opportunities you’ll have to plug clients into these key opportunities.
Do you have another point to add that has helped you grow your relationship with media contacts? Share your advice by leaving a comment below!