Having friends in high places can help you out of sticky situations, but having connections in the newsroom can get you or your client in print.
Media relations can be hard work, but PR pros who spend time networking and cultivating relationships with journalists can increase their chances of a successful pitch. In turn, more successful pitches mean expanded reach and a boost to other PR efforts.
Not all networking tactics are equal, however. There’s a right way—and a wrong way—to make an impression on a reporter.
Here are five ways you can start building a relationship with a reporter today:
1. Follow, converse and share on social media.
Journalists are the largest and most active group of verified users on Twitter, and Greg Galant, CEO of Muck Rack, says 93 percent of reporters appreciate it when communications pros follow them online.
Follow reporters who cover topics related to your brand or clients, and look for opportunities to share their stories, compliment them on well-written articles and start a conversation about a current trend or event.
Don’t pitch journalists immediately after following them, though. Doing so can ruin your chances at form a relationship, and many prefer email pitches to tweets.
2. Learn their preferences along with what they cover.
Reporters cover “beats,” specific topics and areas of interest. When scoping out which publications are best for your organization or client, make sure to research the publication’s reporters to see who covers your specific area.
Journalists might also share, through social media or blog posts, the types of pitches they’d like to receive. You can also glean insight from the specific requests reporters send through Muck Rack, HeyPress or Help a Reporter Out (HARO).
Pay attention to their preferences, and send relevant pitches in the format they desire. This will increase the likelihood that your story will show up in print.
3. Offer up useful information.
If your organization or client doesn’t have any news, resist the temptation to send press releases just to drum up attention.
However, there’s still a way you can connect with journalists when stories are slim. Some organizations conduct studies or polls based on a current trend, or to highlight a consumer behavior. Brands specializing in social media measurement might collect data about a trending hashtag or new social media platform.
Sending these studies to reporters that cover related topics can help flesh out a story, and a meaty report might be interesting enough to score a story on its on.
4. Lend your voice as an expert.
Another way you can make yourself known while getting in a reporter’s good graces is to offer your insights about trends, events and situations you think a reporter might want to write about.
PR pros can respond to requests on websites such as Muck Rack and HARO, or be proactive and email a reporter when news hits. If you’re following journalists on Twitter or other social media platforms-as well as reading their articles-you’ll get a better sense of what they look for when working up story ideas.
You might even see a request for a quote or additional information on Twitter. Tweet or direct message the reporter asking whether you’re able to help in a timely manner.
5. Don’t hound them.
Busy journalists often don’t make it through all the emails in their inboxes. You can decrease this electronic clutter by sending them relevant, newsworthy pitches-and by not following up incessantly.
Reporters don’t often email PR pros to say they’re not interested in particular stories or pitches. Instead, the email goes in the trash. Repeated attempts to take a reporter’s time can get you blocked.
Don’t think that a reporter’s coverage of a given story is a signal to send them barely relevant or non-newsworthy pitches. A HARO request or successful pitch does not open the floodgates. As with other relationships, PR pros must continually invest time nurturing media relations bonds to keep them strong.