Why Genuine Media Relationships Are More Important Than Ever
As public relations professionals, a major part of our work is to build relationships with journalists on behalf of our clients. However, this is only part of the story. Rather than thinking of these relationships as client-centric, we should be thinking of them as journalist-centric. Better put, the relationships we build with journalists should not be transactional but should be focused on building a genuine connection that is mutually beneficial for both parties. While a great relationship with a media person can’t guarantee a story, it certainly makes a difference when securing coverage.
In our Double Forte POV, “The Media Landscape Is the Wild West of PR”, we touched on the importance of genuine media relationships in an ever-changing landscape. Below we’ve broken down four reasons why genuine media relationships are more important than ever.
1. Freelance Writing is More Popular Than Ever
At Double Forte, our list of freelance writers has grown exponentially over the last few years. Especially in the case of lifestyle, food, and beverage media, it’s less likely we’re connecting with one full-time writer at a publication, and more likely we’re connecting with several writers who cover our client’s beats at multiple relevant publications. Developing a genuine relationship with a freelance journalist is essential to:
- Ensure understanding of the kinds of stories the journalist is writing and at what publications. Sharing irrelevant pitches with media is never a good idea (not to mention a waste of time) and is the quickest way to get your email deleted.
- Be in a position to put forth your clients for a wider range of opportunities. If you’ve built a real relationship, you’re more likely to have visibility to opportunities beyond your initial pitch.
- Act as a helpful resource for freelance journalists covering your industries, thus ensuring future consideration of your clients for stories.
2. Decentralized Newsrooms Means Less “Beat” Reporting
More and more, newsrooms are “decentralized” as a result of the pandemic and economic upheaval, a topic discussed in our Media Landscape POV. More likely than not, alongside this, journalists are covering multiple “beats” rather than focusing exclusively on one industry or topic. According to Muck Rack’s The State of Journalism 2023 Report, journalists cover an average of four beats.
To be in the “know” on who is the best contact for any particular pitch, it is essential to build these genuine relationships with media. If you are sharing personalized pitches that show you are genuinely interested in helping them (rather than focusing solely on the interests of a particular client’s pitch) they are more likely to connect you with the proper colleagues when you do send a pitch over.
When pitching a journalist about a particular client, it is always helpful to offer assistance with any other stories they are working on, offer to connect them with other clients in your industry, or even to ask if they are the proper contact for that topic. Opening up this line of communication will allow bigger, more productive conversations and relationships to develop.
3. Lead Times for a Story Vary Widely
Due to the “decentralized” newsroom and the shift to digital over print, we’ve found that lead times for stories can vary greatly. Because of this, it is essential to communicate with journalists authentically and thoughtfully to ensure that you are kept up to date on stories and lead times as they develop and change. In my experience, if you’ve genuinely built a connection with a journalist, they’re more likely to think of you and your client when a last-minute story pops up.
If a story is already in the works, after sending samples or setting up an interview with your client you should always check in with the media person in the days and weeks following to offer your assistance and ask if they need anything. Doing so thoughtfully (without bombarding them with annoying, repetitive emails) helps develop a genuine relationship.
4. Being a Trusted “Source” for Journalists Can Benefit All of Your Clients
Opening the door for discussion and flexibility is the best way to build a relationship with a journalist. When sharing a pitch, the question should not be “Here’s my client’s news, can you write a story about it?” Rather a pitch should extend a helping hand: “Hi, here’s my client’s news, in case it is a fit – if not I’m happy to help with any other similar stories you are working on!” By offering to help with any stories beyond just the client in question, it shows that you care about the journalist’s success beyond the singular pitch you’ve shared.
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By: Alexis Karis