My email inbox is a testament to the fact that many PR professionals are equating busy-ness (a.k.a. the number of pitches they send out) with working hard at their jobs.
If only it were that simple!
Here’s the thing—most of the pitches I receive for Spin Sucks are ice cold. They’re from someone I don’t know, and whom I haven’t seen interacting with our community. It’s incredibly rare these folks hear back from me.
If you’re sending cold pitches to journalists without building relationships with them first, you’re wasting your time. When their inbox is overflowing with emails, they’re going to scan for names they know and subject lines that show the sender knows them and what they’re interested in editorially. Even with a great media list and media database, this level of connection takes time.
Unfortunately, it’s no longer practical or often even possible to wine and dine your favorite influencers to butter them up. So, without coffee dates and cocktail hours to fall back on, how can you build those relationships?
Prioritize Your Influencers
Although your or your client’s influencer wish list might be pretty long, you can realistically only focus on building strong relationships with a small number of influencers at any given time.
How do you decide who to approach first?
Consider who is actively engaging on social and in reply to comments left on their articles or posts. If you prioritize a reporter who uses their social channels only as a one-way distribution feed for their content, it’s going to be significantly more difficult to catch their attention than it will be with a peer who is regularly responding to others on social media channels.
Conduct an Ongoing Engagement Campaign
Today’s journalists are often compensated in whole or in part based on the level of engagement their content generates. That’s why starting an engagement campaign with a journalist’s content is a great way to get on their radar.
Here’s how to do it:
- Identify a newspaper, magazine, or blog that makes a difference in your industry. Who is the one journalist who most frequently writes pieces in which you’d like to be mentioned?
- Each week, comment thoughtfully on one piece of content by this journalist. It’s OK if you disagree, as long as you do so professionally and back up your points. Take time to write a comment that provides value to the readers of the post, while at the same time showing your subject matter expertise.
- Keep this up every week. After a couple of months, your name will become familiar to the journalist, and you may finally receive a call from them regarding a story in the works.
- Every quarter add another publication, so you have four that you focus on each year.
- Don’t be afraid to go after the big publications. If your expertise adds value to the stories they’re reporting, comment away!
Amplify Their Content
When a journalist writes a piece of content you wish your organization or client had been included in, make a point of sharing that content on your brand channel. As a bonus, this demonstrates you value their expertise and reporting and you are providing your community with valuable content that helps them with their day-to-day business.
In addition to retweeting or re-sharing updates the journalist posts on social media, curate and share links to their content that you can post with your own commentary. By showing you have interest and expertise in an area they are actively writing about, you considerably increase your chances of being on the reporter’s short list for interviews the next time the topic comes up.
Building strong relationships with reporters takes time, but social media gives you unprecedented access and insight into what they need from PR pros. Commit to taking the time to build a relationship that will last and you just might be surprised at the long-term benefits you can accrue.
Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.
I think this is so important — it’s not only about having the contact (email, phone number, whatever), but about building the relationship with that contact. A great media list is worth only so much without those relationships.
Exactly, Sarah! One of the things I preach constantly is “let’s choose 10 really targeted journalists and start there.” Too often, you’ll see media list of hundreds, if not thousands, of people. That does not work.
[…] A version of this (minus my snarky comments) first appeared on the PRSA blog. […]
I’m a PR student at Westminster College currently taking a Media Relations class. We learn about how important it is to have a working relationship with journalists, but I previously underestimated how important it is to be familiar with their work. “Commenting thoughtfully” on articles shows the journalist that you respect them as a professional and that you aren’t just using them to get your word out when the time comes.
Thanks for sharing!
Westminster College ’18
Really interesting insight! I wonder, can consistent commenting ever hurt someone’s chances of building a relationship with the writer? For example, how do you weed out the sincere responses from those who are just hoping to build name recognition?