Journalists are constantly inundated with pitches, press releases and requests for coverage, making it difficult for any one message to stand out. But with a strong relationship in place, your message is more likely to be heard and given the attention it deserves.
The truth is, journalists are trendsetters — the driving force behind many of the trends and patterns we witness on social media and in daily life. They are the gatekeepers to what’s in, what’s on its way out, and what new material will be featured in their publications and online platforms. Establishing genuine relationships with them is crucial to your success in media.
As with any successful relationship, building one with a journalist requires open communication, trust and sincerity. But most importantly, it requires work and care. Building relationships with journalists can help establish your brand as a thought leader in your field.
By providing journalists with valuable insights and commentary, you can position yourself as an expert in your industry. Doing so will lead to more media coverage, speaking engagements and other opportunities to help you grow your brand and establish yourself as a leader.
1. Do your research
Before reaching out to a journalist, it’s important to do your research in order to understand what types of stories they cover, their targeted audience and the type of information they prefer — be it informative, entertaining or otherwise. By tailoring your message to the journalist’s interests and needs, you’re more likely to catch their attention and get a response.
To build a relationship with a journalist, consider what you might need in order to gain a connection. In other words, identify their interests and understand why these interests are important to them by reading their previous work. Pay attention to the patterns in the types of stories they cover, the angles they take and the sources they quote. You can also follow the journalist on their social media profiles, such as Twitter and Instagram, to get a sense of their personality and interests.
2. Personalize your pitch
Once you’ve done your research on a journalist you want to build a relationship with, it then comes time to craft your pitch. Generic, one-size-fits-all pitches are unlikely to get their attention. Instead, take the time to personalize your pitch to the journalist’s interests and needs.
Begin by addressing the journalist by name and referencing a recent article they’ve written to show that you’ve done your research and are familiar with their work. Next, explain why your story is relevant to their current beat as well as their audience, using specific examples and data or other evidence to support your claims.
Finally, offer yourself as a source for the story. Provide a brief bio and explain why you’re uniquely qualified to speak on the topic.
3. Be responsive
Journalists often have tight deadlines and will likely need a quick response from you in order to get your story published. Once you’ve sent your pitch, your communication isn’t over — you need to be available if the journalist has to ask any follow-up questions or verify any information you provide them.
If the journalist chooses not to cover your story for any reason, being responsive will stand out to them. This is equally important in building a lasting relationship with them. Journalists are more likely to remember sources who are easy to work with and provide helpful information, even if they don’t end up using it in their stories.
4. Follow up, but don’t be pushy
A few days after originally sending your pitch, follow up with the journalist by sending a polite email to check on the status of your pitch. Do not be pushy by messaging them every day, or even every two or three days. If you still don’t hear back from the journalist after your second or third follow-up email, it’s time to consider cutting the cord on that relationship.
When following up with journalists, make sure not to come off as aggressive and clarify that you are simply following up as a friendly reminder. Reference your previous email and ask if they have had a chance to review your pitch. If they’re still interested, they’ll likely respond with a quick update on where things stand. If they’re not interested, it’s best to move on and focus on building relationships with other journalists.
5. Offer value beyond your own interests
As with any healthy relationship, those you foster with journalists are not merely about what value they can give you — it’s also about what value you can give them.
For example, if you’re a leader in the field of marketing, you can provide insight into emerging marketing trends and provide a quote for the journalist to use in another story. If you have a client that is an established lawyer, you could provide the journalist with a reliable source of legal advice for another story.
Building relationships with journalists is a crucial component of any successful media strategy in today’s ever-changing digital landscape. It takes time and effort, but the benefits are well worth the effort. By establishing yourself as a trusted source and thought leader in your field, you can increase your visibility, build your brand and stay ahead of the competition.