In tech PR, the story is the cornerstone of every good pitch. It all starts and stops there. Tech reporters, like most journalists, get hundreds of pitches each day. Most are ignored, even when they’re well-written. They’re like banner ads — the sheer volume makes tune-out inevitable. So, let’s face it — media relationships matter.
Building authentic rapport with a tech journalist helps a brand stand out amid a barrage of emails, DMs and phone calls. It removes the friction and uncertainty reporters encounter when dealing with an unknown brand or publicist. If you’ve provided them with a good tip or story in the past, maybe you have something good this time around. Unfortunately, building credible media relationships is harder than ever. The competition for a reporter’s time is fierce. And media are naturally skeptical about thirsty PR and comms people. As Drake has famously said, “no new friends.”
So how can tech brands build lasting bonds with media today? Here’s what works for me.
Real media relationships take time and effort. In the beginning, there is a courtship period. Grabbing a coffee has never created an instant friendship. But having multiple in-person meetings throughout the year, attending panels the reporter might be moderating, and interacting with him or her on social channels all work together to forge real connections over time. It’s not hard to do. After all, PR and reporters want the same thing: to tell great stories. Once that hard-earned bond is formed, it needs to be maintained over time like any other relationship. That long-game mindset is important.
Some journalists will become your best friends. Others just won’t want to get to know you. They might even come to hate you. That happens. But one of the biggest hurdles to building relationships is the fear of rejection. If you’re in tech PR, you’ll have to overcome that fear. Ultimately, to get anywhere meaningful relationship-wise, brands and PR pros must put themselves out there. You have to make the initial awkward asks for a coffee, to grab a drink or to go to karaoke (never underestimate the power of poor singing to form bonds). See this earlier article on how to avoid media relations mistakes.
A real relationship never feels transactional, and PR pros enjoy real relationships with journalists. If you approach every reporter interaction as if it’s a sales opportunity, you won’t get very far. Sure, you might get some occasional coverage, but you won’t have a relationship that can deliver better quality stories with greater consistency. PR people and reporters often work in collaboration to create great stories. To get there, you need interactions that don’t always have an explicit marketing or sales benefit. Don’t grill them on what stories they’re working on; find out what’s going on in their lives. As in most aspects of public relations, salesmanship has its place, but it shouldn’t be the centerpiece of your communication.
Journalists today are under pressure to generate views and clicks, and we can help. It’s never a bad idea to follow the top media in your area and boost their stories by sharing them with your own social networks. PR people are natural born news junkies, consuming the morning news right after the alarm goes off and during the commute. Here at Crenshaw, we flag the biggest tech headlines of the day each morning and often share them on our social channels through the day. Another way we promote reporters’ work (and their personal brand) is by enlisting them to moderate a client’s event, like a discussion panel — which has the reciprocal benefit of increasing credibility for those clients.
It’s easy to reach people through email or social media, and it’s great to stay in touch that way. But relationships take on another dimension when you run into someone in real life – at events, conferences, social outings, or a simple sit-down over coffee or something stronger. There are limits to how much rapport you can build over phone and email. There’s no substitute for looking someone in the eye. Face-to-face interactions make you (and the reporter) more memorable. So, if you’re the shy type who likes to hole up in the office, you may be missing out on fun, productive media relationships.