Every PR agency team appreciates the importance of relationships with key media outlets and personnel. This is particularly true in B2B PR, where we tend to approach the same business and trade journalists on behalf of client executives and their brands. The most successful agencies have contacts ready to go for any type of announcement or story, but making a connection with a reporter is only part of the equation. Building it to ensure a long-lasting relationship is the real trick. That requires thoughtful attention and a strong sense of how media work. Below are 7 ways that PR professionals can tighten those all-important journalist relationships.
Occasionally checking a reporter’s recent work is not enough. The best PR professionals know what journalists are planning before they actually publish the piece. First, have a clear understanding of the reporters you work with most frequently and try to check what they’re writing about, even if you don’t have an urgent media inquiry. Often a journalist will hint at what they plan to cover next, offering the opportunity to give client commentary. It’s also helpful to understand the reporter’s perspective on the major topics in the industry. For contacts you don’t know, this is essential so your spokesperson can understand whether the interview will be easy or could present challenges. But for familiar media contacts, knowing their interests and thoughts on major topics can expedite media opportunities. This is because you not only know what stories they will cover instantly when a story breaks, but how they’re likely to approach, which enables a more targeted pitch.
Understand and manage deadlines
Working at the convenience of the reporter and the client can be a tightrope walk. Often between gathering commentary and trying to meet a deadline, the reporter will be nearly as stressed as the PR person. Offering timely and relevant commentary is a great way to improve a relationship, but we’re often stuck waiting on commentary from a client. Although there isn’t a golden rule, keeping the reporter up-to-date on the status of the information you’ve promised is a good idea and helps build trust.
Building better media relations means making reporters’ lives easier. One of the best ways to do this is by being the first to offer a spokesperson’s thoughts for newsworthy stories. This can be done through close monitoring of important dates like company earnings reports and major tech events where commentary is useful. Often during major announcements, reporters won’t have time to reach out to their reliable PR contacts, so the onus is on the PR team to be proactive. It’s helpful to make a note of any feedback a reporter shares about the next major story, event or announcement they’re planning. You can then take the initiative to offer commentary as soon as a the story is relevant.
Be honest about what you’re offering, especially if it isn’t a perfect fit with the reporter’s needs. It also pays to be truthful about deadlines. If your expert spokesperson can’t meet a deadline, or even if it looks like they might be late, it’s a good idea to let the reporter know. Otherwise, it’s likely the reporter won’t reach out again as they now think you’re unreliable. Being upfront with reporters will lead to more coverage in the long-term even if it means missing an opportunity in the short-term.
Think outside the brand
A big misconception among PR people is that they can only offer up a spokesperson to speak about the company’s story of the day. Our job is to think outside the strict product news parameters, and that creative thinking can benefit journalists. For example, a tech company focused on connected TV can offer thoughts about what the company did to keep their employees engaged during the pandemic. While you certainly want to pitch and focus on the areas of client expertise, it pays to expand the definition of expertise beyond self-serving announcements.
Interact on social media
Interaction with a reporter on social media sites like Twitter and LinkedIn can be beneficial. First, it’s a nice gesture. Social likes and shares will be noticed and appreciated. Successful PRs can also learn a great deal about a reporter’s interests that go beyond simply looking at their recent pieces. Journalists often announce they are switching outlets on social media, providing an opportunity to not only wish them luck on their new endeavor, but also build a relationship with a new publication. It also gives you a heads-up to start looking for new go-to contacts at the media outlet the reporter left so you’re building relationships without losing any.
Use email well
PR people often struggle to find a middle ground between pitching a reporter too often and failing to pitch them enough. There are ways to work around this dilemma. First, make sure the agency team is coordinating outreach so they aren’t contacting a given reporter too much. Second, make sure to acknowledge or thank the reporter following an interview or inclusion in a piece. Finally, make sure you’re only emailing them about relevant content. This is essential for every pitch, but emailing a contact about a story that clearly isn’t up their alley could burn that bridge and hurt future opportunities.