5 tips for maintaining relationships with journalists

The practice of media relations isn’t just about landing stories. The best PR pros work to maintain and foster relationships with editors and reporters. Here are some ways to do that.

So, you just landed a great piece of coverage. Congrats.

Now what?

Getting an editor’s attention long enough to earn a hit is only the first step. Maintaining strong relationships can be the difference between coming up empty for clients and consistently delivering great results.

Here are some tips for working with the media that I have relied on time and time again:

1. Don’t pitch something to an editor that he/she won’t be interested in. If you have developed a relationship with an editor, over-pitching irrelevant topics will turn them off in an instant. If you are looking to develop the initial relationship, you’re not giving them much faith that you’re savvy enough to work with them. Just because an editor covers gaming technology, it doesn’t mean he will be interested in your client’s advertising platform targeted at game developers.

On the other hand, you can use those unique angles to your advantage. An editor with whom I worked at an advertising publication many times ended up being interested in some unusual angles. If you can tailor a topic that, at first glance, may not be a smash hit, and tie it into the editor’s tastes, you’ll at least have a shot at getting her or his attention. Only attempt this if you know the editor could bite, though.

2. Read recent articles. Something I like to do before sending a pitch or picking up the phone is to scan through a publication’s recent articles. It gives me a sense of what an editor is currently focusing on. Then I’m prepared to discuss why I think my idea is relevant.

I’ve found that this is comes into play the most when pitching, if for no other reason than to verify you are pitching the right person. For example, one of my clients was launching a major product, and my team was pre-pitching the announcement to editors we thought would be interested. In the process, I was looking up recent coverage of editors at Network World and noticed that someone we were pitching wasn’t quite as good a fit as another reporter at the publication. I ended up contacting the person I thought was a better fit, which resulted in a briefing, and in turn, led to a great piece of coverage. I’ve worked with him a few times since and always think back to how our relationship started, thankful for taking the few extra minutes to read his work.

3. Interact. Tweet, retweet, favorite, like, share, connect, and so on. Talk about the industry, or talk about the weather. Be a person. Don’t incessantly interact with meaningless banter; you don’t want to get to the point you are a nuisance. The point is to establish yourself as a peer and to build trust. Depending on your relationship, two to three interactions each week on average is reasonable.

Even before establishing a relationship, I like to share recent coverage if I’m trying to catch a specific editor’s attention. A simple retweet is fine, but I’ve found tagging them in a tweet referencing an article puts you a little closer to center on the radar. If not, directly tweeting the editor usually does the trick. Direct messaging is also a good option (if they follow you as well).

Taking it one step further, commenting on articles will go a long way. It shows that you care about and are actually absorbing their content, and they’ll take note.

4. Meet journalists in person, whenever possible. Go to local networking events, or seek editors out when you’re at a conference for your client. It sounds a little crazy to even say, but it’s helpful to remind each other that you’re both people. In-the-flesh interaction goes a long way to do that.

5. Avoid cookie cutting. Every editor is different, so take these tips in stride. Manage each relationship as you would one with a client. Each has different personalities and preferences, and it’s important to personalize your approach. As a result, your interactions will stay genuine and editors will respect you for it. In the end, taking a few extra minutes go get to know who you are working with will make a world of difference.

Kirsten Ashton is an account executive at Vantage PR.

Topics: PR

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