The journalism industry has experienced monumental change in the last decade: declining print circulation revenue, the shift to digital news, the demand on reporters to become multitalented and to write stories that attract as many clicks as possible. The landscape has shifted dramatically and has forced PR professionals to evolve their media relations strategies.
Organic relationship-building has grown exponentially more difficult because there are half as many reporters trying to do twice the work. It makes it tough for a media strategist at a PR firm to call a random industry reporter and have a casual conversation about a client, trend or piece of news, and reporters rarely have the time to meet for coffee or lunch if there’s not a story at the end of it. They receive hundreds of pitches a day—many of them irrelevant to their beats—and are understandably frustrated when someone calls simply to ask if they received a pitch or press release.
Here are some ways to build a consistent media relations strategy and engage with reporters in the landscape of 21st century journalism:
Media relations takes a lot of time. Reporters are busier than they’ve ever been, with more responsibilities and less time. Building relationships can take months or even years. Be patient.
Read the news! Many executives and senior company leaders surprisingly don’t read the news, which can be incredibly detrimental when it comes time to pitch (or when they dictate unrealistic media expectations to their PR firm because they are unaware of the trends dictating the current news cycle).
Customize pitches for the reporter and outlet. Blasting hundreds of templated emails rarely works.
Journalists are people, too. Respect their privacy, their preferred methods of communication and any feedback they give you.
Engage them where they are. If a reporter is active on Twitter, try shooting them a tweet or direct message to discuss a story. Ask them what they like to write about, what they’re working on, what kind of sources they like, etc.
Adhere to every guideline they give you. If they request that you don’t call them while on a Thursday deadline, don’t. It’s that simple.
NEVER request backlinks or questions in advance of an interview. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER.
NEVER follow up with, “Hey, did you receive my press release?” Always include a new angle, statistic or idea.