Whether you are outsourcing your media relations to an agency or doing it in-house, the first step is to identify the journalists most relevant to your company. Building and maintaining relationships with relevant reporters is imperative in ensuring coverage of your company in the media. Without building proper relationships, your company can miss out on potential media opportunities and coverage.
In the past, it wasn’t uncommon to build relationships over a cup of coffee or a social mixer. Fast forward to today, media relations are drastically different. Recently, journalists have been affected by a record number of layoffs, which has caused their industry to shift. As a result reporters now have more responsibilities with less support and prefer virtual meetings whenever possible. Emailed is the primary communications channel vs. phone calls and most interviews are conducted via video conferencing.
Identifying The Correct Media Contact to Nurture
Before you start reaching out to journalists you need to do some homework. First, make a list of publications your company would be interested in being featured in. This list can include both smaller niche vertical/trade publications and national publications. Include different types of news outlets, such as podcasts and/or newsletters. Keep in mind that nurturing any relationship takes time and is a professional exchange. There is very little time to do favors for anyone, even someone they consider a friend so always come prepared with the information they need.
Once you have a tailored list of publications that have covered stories around your industry solutions or type of company/founder, then it’s time to research which reporters at that outlet would most likely cover your company or executives. Reporters tend to focus on very specific coverage areas or beats. So sift through the publication to find reporters that cover your field or similar topics. Once you find a reporter, scroll through their past coverage to confirm they are the right fit or move on to other journalists.
Engage on Social Media Carefully
A recent study done by Pew Research Center discovered that 9 out of 10 journalists regularly use social media for their jobs. It’s not a surprise that out of all the platforms, Twitter (or X) is the most used among reporters. Although Twitter has problems, it is still the quickest way to get information out to the public. Even with new social media platforms like TikTok and Snapchat gaining traction, Twitter continues to be highly favored by journalists.
Before you start following relevant journalists, evaluate your profile. Your profile should have a professional headshot and a bio clearly describing who you are. It’s best to use an active account rather than a new one, tweets and followers legitimize your account. After you clean up your profile and follow your targeted journalist, it’s time to start interacting. Avoid messaging journalists straight away, your presence should be known first. You can do this by interacting with posts through likes and commenting.
Do not publicly tweet journalists to consider a story idea. Not only is it unprofessional, but it immediately takes all exclusivity out of the story. Direct messaging can also be considered unprofessional if abused. If it’s decided that the best strategy is to directly message a reporter, make sure the content pertains to that specific reporter’s niche. Social media gives you the unique opportunity to learn about a reporter’s personal interests and insight into their personalities. Understanding who journalists are as people can aid in building a rapport when you need to contact them in the future.
Adding Personal Touches
Now that you have your list and have started interacting with journalists on social media you can begin to strategize on best methods to interest them in your stories. Again, email is usually the way to get your pitch in front of a journalist.
Once you have written your main pitch, start customizing it to the individual reporter. Don’t fall prey to the temptation of the “spray and pray” method of media outreach. Which is when the same pitch is sent to countless journalists in hopes that one of them will bite. Most journalists can spot this right away and will disregard your story if it doesn’t feel customized to them. To continue building genuine relationships, show that you are familiar with their previous work by mentioning articles you enjoyed within the pitch.
Once you’ve connected with a journalist, be a constant resource. If they are interviewing someone from your team, provide an overview or biography for them. After the interview, thank them for their time and ask if they need further information from you. Managing journalist relationships is no longer an easy task. With crowded internet spaces and overwhelmed journalists, it is becoming more difficult for companies to stand out. Successfully managing these relationships now relies on coming up with unique pitching strategies. Relationship building and being a resource will result in media coverage. Standing out in a sea of stories is a challenge, but with some research, patience and personal touches, you will see success.