Group Gordon’s Jenny Friedman writes about building and sustaining strong media relationships.
Once in a while, a new client engagement gets off to a slow start. My team faced this challenge recently when we struggled to get journalists interested in speaking with our source. Finally, when a reporter at a national outlet responded to my pitch, I had my first glimmer of hope at getting him a big opportunity. Then she ghosted me. For months, I continued to reach out and got nothing but silence. Then, about a month ago, she finally scheduled the conversation with my client. She ended up absolutely loving him and even requested a copy of his book.
Building strong relationships with journalists can be a slow, difficult process, but the investment of time and energy can pay off. Here are a few tips for getting them to value working with you:
Make a good first impression
Any good relationship starts with having a grasp on the other person’s needs. To connect with journalists, that means knowing what they cover. While media intelligence tools like Meltwater or Cision can be useful for building expansive lists, a smart, targeted list-building process should begin with a thorough Google search to identify who’s covering the topic you’re pitching. You can also check Twitter and other social media channels to find reporters who share their beats in their bios. When you craft your pitch, try to tailor it to specific journalists, with references to their relevant past coverage. If you’re reaching out around breaking news, make sure journalists on your list didn’t already publish their story on the topic – and if they did, consider providing a new angle that they didn’t already address. Finally, if you’re inviting journalists to attend an event, make sure they live in the area or that it’s feasible for them to attend.
It’s all about the follow-up
Journalists get so many emails daily, it’s easy for yours to get buried in their inbox. Sending a short follow-up note a day or two after your initial email can prompt them to consider your news. You can also follow up over the phone. While calls can be time consuming and finding direct numbers can be tricky, journalists sometimes appreciate a call. It adds a human element to your relationship, especially when you may not have the opportunity to meet in person. In either case, you’ll be amazed at how many more positive responses you’ll get from a good follow-up.
Nurture the relationship
So you’ve captured a journalist’s interest, flawlessly coordinated a conversation with your client, and are on your way to placing a story featuring your client’s news or commentary. Great work, but you’re not done yet! Did your client offer to provide additional information during their conversation? Make sure you pass along any resources promised to show you’re reliable. If the journalist emails you with more questions, replying in a timely manner is another way to demonstrate that you’re dependable.
You’ve laid a foundation for a strong relationship, so be sure to build on it by offering the journalist other fitting opportunities. When you reach out, acknowledge that you’ve worked together before. This can jog their memory that they had a positive experience speaking with your client in the past. After working with a journalist for a while, feel free to reach out about meeting for coffee or lunch if you want to take the relationship a step further.
Building strong relationships with journalists can be daunting, but it’s essential in our industry. Following the tips above will give you a solid start to becoming someone journalists can rely on and enjoy working with.