How Agencies Can Build Strong Relationships With Journalists

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Nancy Vaughn
Nancy Vaughn



Public relations firms are always thinking about journalists, writers, editors, producers, bloggers, and influencers who can spread the word.

It’s kind of “our thing.”

But not every agency -- especially digital, social, SEO, and even more traditional firms -- knows where to begin when it comes to pitching the media. They try emailing, calling, tweeting, and even sending Facebook messages, without ever hearing a word back. 

The core issue is that journalists care about relationships, not another press release. If a journalist knows he can come to you for insights on a specific topic and information on trends in a vertical, then he is much more likely to pay attention to your future pitches and requests. 

Here are few ways to get your media friendships going:

Be a resource.

Sometimes, agencies only think of journalists when they need something -- for instance, a story or profile on themselves or a client. You know the saying: It's not about you. Remember this. It's not about you or your agency. It's about what information makes the best story or the most interesting profile. 

If you provide media contacts with relevant information that makes their jobs easier, you’ll become a valuable resource for story ideas and content. This is beneficial for both you and your clients.

Be available.

Journalists function in a deadline-driven environment. They’re not on your time. If you’re looking to land coverage (or be the aforementioned resource), you need to be available to them. Many opportunities are missed because people do not answer their phones, respond to emails, or check their social channels.

In addition to being available when a journalist needs more information on a tight deadline, you also should refrain from wasting the reporter's time when approaching him with a story. Prepare everything you need to pitch -- including images, key facts, and someone who can provide an interview. 

Follow their lead.

Not in a stalking, creepy way, but as one who is taking an active interest in their work. Social media can make it easy to "get to know" people in a relatively short amount of time. Sign up for a site like MuckRack, which organizes journalists by their beats and topics of interest. 

Good journalists have a genuine interest in providing newsworthy content to their audience, so taking a genuine interest in what matters to them just makes sense. By paying attention to what they’re talking about via social and covering online or on-air, you’ll be able to learn their reporting style and the content that interests them. This makes it easier to strike up a natural conversation. 

Be interesting.

We always encourage people to do one or more of the following: inform, inspire, and educate. These three things are the keys to an interesting story, and to remain relevant to a journalist, you need to be interesting -- above all else. Before you reach out to the media, you’ll want to ask yourself, “Is this truly newsworthy?” A good way to assess the newsworthiness is by ensuring the story informs, inspires, or educates. "Inform" goes beyond, “We have a great new service offering!” Why is this information important, who is it helping, and how?

Adweek, Creativity Online, Advertising Age, and more are all interested in relevant information share as an agency -- from the latest campaigns that are making an impact to industry trends. Taking the time to invest in building relationships with journalists can be the difference between telling a few thousand Facebook fans or reaching more than 1.5 million interested readers.

It takes time and patience to build relationships with the media. But it is worth it. One day, you'll have an amazing story to share, and you'll know just the journalist who can tell it.  

What are your tips for encouraging strong relationships with journalists? Share in the comments below!

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