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Keep Your Friends Close, and the Media Closer

Keep Your Friends Close, and the Media Closer
written by
PR Supervisor

Media relations is undoubtedly one of the most important facets of PR. You have an arsenal of weapons to use – the strategy, the messaging, the press material creation, images, video, etc., but at the end of the day, media relations will get that story placed. After spending so much time and effort crafting the perfect message for your brand, the media relations person is tasked with communicating this to the media through pitching.

A student or person just starting their PR career will hear this over and over again – building relationships with the media is vital for your clients and your success. Personally, I have found this to be one of the most important tactics for pitching both new and old clients on a local and national level.

Below are tips for building your relationships and dare I say – even friendships – with the key members of the media who you will be pitching:

You Scratch My Back, I’ll Scratch Yours
One of the unwritten rules of PR is this: if you prove yourself to be a good PR pro to the media, they will return the favor. That is, once you start working with a reporter on a story, make sure that you go above and beyond to get them what they need, be it a quote, interview, images, or video. This might mean that you have to check your email after hours, work a little later, or even take a phone call during dinner. At the end of the day, the juice is worth the squeeze. If you prove to a reporter that you are responsible and most importantly, RELIABLE, that reporter will return the favor by not only covering your client, but coming back to you the next time they are working on a story and need a subject matter expert – the ultimate PR win.

Do Your Homework
Sure, it’s easy to send out a press release over the wire and call it a day. But to get a really good, meaty story? You’re going to need to do your homework. And that is…stalk your targets. You heard right – go on their social media and actually read their stories. Then, tailor your pitch to the reporter and make it as easy as possible for them by pointing out where this story can fit into their beat, why it is timely, and what you can offer the reporter.

Sharing is Caring
Reporters are always looking to drive more viewers to their stories and also build up their brand and reputation. One of the biggest ways to win favor with a reporter is to share their stories on social media. You can share from the client’s account to promote this story, tagging both the reporter and the outlet, but you can also share on your personal social channels and show your gratitude for their partnership.

Use Affiliate Links
Many writers who cover consumer products, especially freelancers and influencers, love to work with affiliated links as it helps to track engagement. All parties involved can also earn a commission from any sales made by click-throughs on this link. This has become such a popular practice that many outlets now will not even consider including a product that is not sold via an affiliate link in an article or roundup. Knowing this, before you even start to pitch, it’s important to explore the option to create an affiliate link for the product you are promoting. When reaching out to the media, include language that the product you are pitching has the option to be promoted by an affiliate link. Over time, pitching with affiliated links to the reporters who prefer to use them can create a beneficial relationship between you and a reporter, resulting in coverage for your client.

Take Advantage of Opportunities to Learn What the Press Wants
There are numerous opportunities available to learn what the press wants and more importantly, who the best contact is at an outlet for your particular pitch. Most local public relations societies have annual or bi-annual sessions with the media where you can hear directly from the source how to best get your pitch across. These are typically worth every minute of attendance and penny spent. Otherwise, you would be spending that time researching exactly who to pitch and possibly reaching out to the wrong reporters. Take advantage of these opportunities by checking in with your state chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) or your local public relations organization.

Tried but True: Meet in Person
One of the biggest challenges is being tasked with garnering PR coverage for an unknown client in a new market – whether it’s national, or a local market you are not familiar with. Deskside media tours are a tried and true tactic that work to build relationships from the ground up. This is a radical idea during these pandemic times, but meeting a media member in person is a great first step to building a relationship. You not only get facetime with reporters to introduce them to your client, but you can also learn what they are working on and their interests and leverage that for future pitches. After a deskside meeting, the reporter will immediately recognize your email when it comes through as they can put a face with a name. You can opt to do a deskside tour as virtual, but in-person facetime is much more impactful. Not to mention that many reporters are Zoom-fatigued and would relish the chance to meet with an interesting client in person. The challenge with desksides now is that many media are not working in an office anymore, so you might need to be flexible and meet them for coffee or lunch.

Reporters Are People, Too
Reporters are people, too, and they have likes, interests, social lives (online and offline), and families. Don’t think that small personal gestures won’t make an impact. For example, if you work with a producer on a television segment, send a hand-written thank you note. Send Christmas cards or presents to the media you work closely with throughout the year. Compliment them on any recent awards or accolades they have received. This not only shows that you care about your own professional relationship with this individual, but also that you are a reader or viewer.