How to Build Strong Relationships with Media

By Emily Hanhart
November 4, 2019

Cultivating strong relationships with the media is crucial to cutting through their cluttered inboxes and getting your company’s or your clients’ stories heard. You can master the art of pitching, but the bottom line is that if a reporter doesn’t recognize your name in their inbox, they might not even read the subject line.

There are several things you can do to maintain authentic relationships with reporters. Here are just a few tips you can try:

  1. Get to know the person behind the byline. This sounds like common sense, but in today’s world where we spend our entire workday communicating through email, it’s easy to forget that relationships aren’t built that way. How many times have you pitched a reporter and never received a response no matter how many times you followed up? That’s probably because they don’t know you. Don’t be afraid to ask a reporter to coffee or lunch – this goes a long way! Pick a neutral setting where you can get to know them, their interests and how they prefer to be pitched. It’s important to be genuine with this approach. You shouldn’t ask a reporter to meet and spend the entire time pitching them story opportunities – this is a huge turnoff for media. It’s okay to bring up your clients or even pitch them a story opportunity during your meeting, but do it in a thoughtful way by sharing high-level details and letting them know you can follow up via email with more information. Much like following up on a job interview, you might reference something in your email about their kids upcoming birthday party or a book they’re currently reading.
  2. Respect their time and know their schedule. Reporters are under a lot of pressure and are working up against tight deadlines, so it’s important to understand their time is very limited. Be respectful of their time when you’re following up via phone or email. If you’re following up about an event, don’t bother calling two or even one week out to see if they plan to cover it. TV reporters especially are focused on the news of the day and they often aren’t thinking about tomorrow, let alone a week from now. Print and online reporters, however, prefer roughly two to three weeks lead time on events. It’s also important to know their working hours as most reporters don’t work a typical 9-5. For TV and radio, learn when they’re on the air or even prepping to be on the air, and avoid trying to communicate with them during those times.
  3. Provide them with well-prepped sources. Reporters receive hundreds of emails a day, so when they’re looking for good content to share, they will most likely rely on PR pros who they know provide good sources every time. Once you’ve booked the segment with the reporter, it’s important to make sure your source/client is prepped on all the details of the show and the person interviewing them. This shows the producer or reporter you’re working with that you did your due diligence to ensure the interview went smoothly and the reporter got exactly what they needed. At the end of the day, PR pros can’t control what the source says or does in that moment, but one bad interview or even a miscommunication about the subject matter being discussed can tarnish your relationship with that reporter, and next time, they might look elsewhere for a source.
  4. Interact with them on social. While face-to-face interaction is crucial to fostering strong relationships with the media, it’s also nice to show them a little love on social too. Social media is used widely by journalists, so it’s important for PR pros to be active on their own channels and to share content from journalists they work with in an authentic way. Whether it’s a comment on a story they wrote or a DM to say thanks for the coverage they gave your client, these informal interactions are small, but mighty when it comes to building lasting relationships with media.
  5. Show your appreciation! This seems like a no-brainer, but when a reporter shares your story, or goes above and beyond to give you more coverage than you initially thought you might get, it’s so important to share your gratitude with them. You can do this via email or by picking up the phone to say thanks, or you can even send them a hand-written thank you card. It might seem like they’re just doing their job, but at the end of the day, they receive countless pitches a day just like yours that they could have covered. Showing your appreciation will go a long way and will further build upon the relationship you already have with that reporter.

How do you build relationships with reporters? Share any other ideas you have on social and tag us @inspireprgroup.