Four Steps to Building Meaningful Relationships with Journalists

By Morgan Norris

If you are working to establish a media relations program or just want to increase your opportunities for editorial coverage, building strong relationships with the press contacts that are assigned to cover your company and/or industry is key to the marathon that is public relations. Here are four steps to building strong press relationships that will benefit your marketing and communications efforts:

1. Read and Comment on Their Articles

The best journalists and editors (the kind you want to build relationships with!) take great pride in the features and reviews that they put blood, sweat and tears into publishing.

So, be sure to really read their stories and leave comments consistently, with your name and company name. They will appreciate your feedback on what you like about their stories, how you think your customers might benefit from their stories, and maybe even what you found inspiring or thought-provoking after reading their work. They are in this profession to educate and inform, so they will enjoy getting your commentary on how you and your parties are impacted by the information they provided. The more engaging your comments are the better, as they will help your name stand out to the individual you are trying to build a relationship with. The more your comments stand out, the more likely they are to remember you, respond to you, and begin to value your industry expertise and thought leadership.

2. Interact through Social Media

If the contacts you want to establish arelationship with are active on social media channels like Twitter or Facebook, take the time to follow them and interact with them there regularly. They are there because they either find it enjoyable to communicate with people in that way, or helpful in some way to their editorial efforts. So, look for them in social media and take advantage of the opportunity to send them messages, ask questions or answer their inquiries!

On the topic of inquiries, be sure to keep an eye out for any social media messages from these contacts where they are asking for references and/or story ideas. If you can be quick to respond with appropriate resources, this can be a great way to generate strong and positive editorial coverage for you or your company.

However, the conversation doesn’t always have to be about your area of expertise and should never be a sales pitch. Instead, keep your social media engagements with the press informal and genuine, regardless of the topic, if you want to build strong relationships with the press that go beyond just your professional expertise.

For example, if you see them tweet about a conference they are attending in your city, reply to them offering local restaurant or bar ideas. Or if they link to a favorite band or song lyric that you know, reply and make conversation about your common music taste!

3. Send Them Story Ideas

As you begin to follow their coverage and social media communication consistently, you’ll likely be able to predict what type of stories they like to cover most. When possible, email them with similar story ideas that you find compelling and that you believe will interest them and their readers. Keep in mind, these story ideas do not always have to be related to your company or product. In fact, the press contact will likely be more impressed with your correspondence if it's just a story idea that you want to suggest and it doesn’t include a PR opportunity for you.

That said, while they will likely appreciate your time and efforts either way, this doesn’t guarantee they’ll take your idea or cite you in their article. But it will go a long way in showing the press contact that you’re following their work and interested in contributing to the industry at large by sharing your ideas. It also can’t hurt your chances of getting company or product coverage when you do have relevant news that you are trying to pitch as a story.

Strong story idea suggestions might include industry trends you are seeing, new industry statistics that point to uncommon conclusions, industry pain points you’ve noticed through your customer interactions, ways that a breaking news story is predicted to impact your industry, etc.

4. Stay in Touch

Just like building a relationship with anyone else, the strengthening of your press relationships will require patience, consistency and time. It’s important not to be a stranger and to take opportunities, like the 3 mentioned above, to interact with the press contacts on a regular basis. A good rule of thumb is to correspond with them at least once per month, whether that’s with something related to your brand or not. Be patient if your communication efforts aren’t fruitful at first, as just like any relationship, it can take several engagements (over months) to build trust and a mutual interest in corresponding.

Overall, your relationships with the press should be productive if you’re willing to consistently contribute strong and relevant information that they can use to better inform their readers. They’ll come to appreciate your insight and value your relationship as an industry expert as much as you value their ability to widely publicize your company or product name.

You can read more about media relations, and how to best approach it in these posts:

How Strategic PR Efforts Boosted One IT Company’s Feature News Coverage by 125%

Trade Show Media Relations: Do’s and Don’ts

TREW Top 9 List to Increase Your Product Launch Coverage

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