You cross your fingers and hit send. Another uniform round of email press releases has been sent to reporters, and you’re hoping that someone will be interested. However, you’ll need more than a little luck for your pitch email to earn a media hit.
The reporters who receive your pitches decide whether or not your story makes it to print, and they don’t want to be treated like pitch-reading machines. In order to be successful with the media, public relations professionals must build and maintain relationships with journalists.
Journalists are not your employees.
Reporters are not just a means of getting a message to an audience; rather, they are the most important audience. They are the gatekeepers who decide which messages are shared and in what way. If you treat a journalist like a story-producing robot, you are guaranteed to get poor results. Instead, treat them like a partner. If you provide information for them in a useful and thoughtful way, they will return the favor and write your story.
You reap what you sow in media pitching.
In order to build the best relationships with journalists, you must be willing to put the work in. This means trashing your habit of sending generic pitch emails. Nothing says, “I’m just using you for a media hit” like an impersonal message. Replace your habit with the practice of researching the reporter to whom you are pitching. Search LinkedIn and social media to find out more about the publication they work for, the beats they cover, what they’ve written in the past and their likes and dislikes. Adding a personal touch to an email, like mentioning a past story they’ve written, will immediately grab their attention and show that you know your stuff.
Don’t forget to follow up with reporters.
Make a follow-up phone call a day or two after sending a pitch. A phone call is the most personal way to connect with a reporter without showing up on their doorstep. A friendly conversation can put a positive personality and voice to your name, making it much more likely that your pitch emails will be opened in the future. It can also remind a reporter to search again for a pitch that was lost in the shuffle and never read. In either case, going out of your way to personally connect with a journalist will always impress.
Maintain the relationship.
Once you’ve made a connection with a journalist, do whatever you can to keep it. Maintaining those relationships is key to being a great public relations professional. You may gain a business partner or even a friend in the process.
Bethany Corne is a junior majoring in public relations and marketing at the University of Alabama. She is the vice president of finance for the UA PRSSA, a digital strategist for the Capstone Agency and the communications manager for the UA EcoCAR 3 Team. Follow her on Twitter @BethanyyyC14, find her on LinkedIn or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.