Win over reporters in 10 steps

PR pros and journalists can have mutually beneficial relationships, but someone needs to take the first step. Here’s what PR pros can do to pave the way to amicability.

I recently hit two career milestones.

First, I’ve been a monthly contributor to Muck Rack Daily for a year. Second, I made a major career change. My bio says I plan on doing big things, and this career change is another step in that direction.

As with many PR career changes, I’m faced with a new media relations frontier: new publications, reporters, pitches and writing styles.

Since I read and write for the blog that helps foster journalist/PR pro relationships, I decided to put everything I’ve read and written to the test.

Here’s a 10-step action plan for winning over reporters:

1. Research.

In the beginning, I’ll spend a lot of time researching publications and staff, looking for tone, writing styles and patterns. Most importantly, I’ll look for opportunities for both my client and reporters. As some of the smartest communication pros say, PR starts and ends with research.

2. Take advantage of Twitter.

We all know journalists spend a lot of time on Twitter, but many people don’t use the social network well. I’ll follow the reporters important to my client, and look at industry conversations. Twitter lists help me compartmentalize and prioritize.

3. Send intro emails.

Keep these emails short, and consider deadlines. I’ll introduce myself as my client’s representative, and show I already started Nos. 1 and 2 of this action plan.

4. Follow reporters’ writing.

One of the best characteristics of a PR pro is the ability to spot trends. The way to do that is to stay current. (The best characteristic is the ability to predict news trends, but few can.) I receive real-time updates on what my target reporters publish and post using Twitter and some of the best monitoring tools (including Muck Rack). Sometimes timing is everything.

5. Be tailored and selective.

After I research and make some introductions, I’ll have a good idea of the reporters’ work and interests. This gives me an advantage when pitching and having conversations. I don’t send mass pitches; I tailor them to timing, readers and interests.

6. Become a source.

There’s more to media relations than pitches and impressions. The goal is to become a trusted source who helps clients and journalists. Being honest and providing information adds to credibility. At the same time …

7. Advise the client.

The media is one of the best indicators of public sentiment and reaction. Being able to provide insight on the best media outreach approach and set reasonable expectations makes the process easier for PR pros and reporters.

8. Listen.

Journalists can do a number of things to guide PR pros’ pitching and outreach. I look forward to reporters’ feedback, as well as collaborating with them to achieve mutual goals. It all starts with listening.

9. Be cool.

People can have trouble balancing friendly and professional interactions. Even though we’re sometimes adversaries, this balance shapes the communication and relationship. It also helps to be reasonable and level-headed.

10. Think like a reporter.

This is one of the most challenging strategies, especially for PR pros who haven’t been journalists. The question I’ll ask most frequently is, “Would I write about this?”

You can’t develop a relationship overnight. I’ll let you know how effective my strategy is, but in the meantime, share your tips below.

Julia Sahin is a monthly contributor to Muck Rack, and a recent graduate from NYU’s master’s program in public relations and corporate communications. She is the first to conduct and publish academic research on the reputational effects of regulation on big banks. She plans on doing big things.

A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists by searching their bios, tweets and articles, and pitch them to get more press.

Topics: PR

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