Online media is the go-to source of information on current events and niche topics for people across the US, every day. In fact, over eight in ten Americans say they get their news from a smartphone, computer or tablet.
With news outlets, blogs and podcasts all over the country focusing on virtually every industry, businesses and PR professionals have an opportunity to use the media landscape to their advantage. But this requires a lot of work, and building trusted relationships with journalists.
It sounds like a daunting task, but it’s actually quite simple when you break it down. Let’s get started.
Do Your Homework First
The last thing you want to do is start emailing journalists with your business news without knowing what kind of work they do. You could quickly end up on their blocked list.
Before sending anything to a journalist, have a look at their articles to ensure they focus on your industry or topic. You should also know what publications they write for and whether those platforms are right for your business.
Based on their previous work, ask yourself whether they would care about your story. If it doesn’t seem like a good fit, then move on. There are plenty of journalists out there – The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of May 2022, there were over 44,000 news analysts, reporters and journalists working in America.
During this preparation stage, it’s important to keep in mind the types of challenges journalists face. They want timely and compelling stories and are often under very tight deadlines. When you finally reach out, remain understanding and respectful of the type of industry they’re in. This will help set the foundation for a healthy, long-lasting relationship.
If you’re having trouble finding journalists that make sense for you, consider attending industry networking events like seminars or conferences. These events allow you to connect with journalists in person and chat about working together. Make sure you swap contact information, even if there doesn’t seem to be an immediate interest on their end.
A Successful Pitch
Once you have a list of journalists you feel are right for your story, it’s time to reach out. This is a crucial step that can make or break a potential relationship, so don’t rush it.
As a rule, never mass email journalists or send generic, templated messages. Instead, send a personalized email that’s clear, courteous and to the point. Mention one of their articles that caught your eye to show them you’re genuinely interested in their work and want to be a part of it.
Keep in mind that journalists want newsworthy stories, so your pitch needs to be timely, relevant to your industry and interesting. This is your chance to position yourself as a valuable contact for a journalist, so put your best foot forward. The press releases you share should be well-written and have a unique angle. If you can, include things like case studies, expert opinions or supporting data.
Some other housekeeping items that should apply to every pitch you send are:
- Provide ample lead time for your story.
- Include a short brief of your story at the top and paste the entire press release below. This saves the journalist time when deciding whether it’s right for them.
- Try to send images or additional resources as links instead of attachments.
- Writing a compelling yet concise subject line.
- Always proofread your emails before hitting the send button.
Make your pitch emails the best they can be by checking out our tutorial on how to email journalists.
You’ve sent off your pitch to your network of journalists. This is an important milestone in creating valuable, long-term relationships. However, it takes time. Don’t expect your story to get picked up by every journalist right away.
The relationships you build with journalists are based on trust. After you’ve sent your pitch, make it a point to be responsive to inquiries and transparent about your goals. Follow through with everything you say you’re going to do.
It’a also important to be open to constructive feedback from journalists. Whether they’re offering suggestions to help improve your press release, want to approach your story from a different angle or point out inaccuracies, always listen. Think of it as a collaborative relationship.
If a journalist interviews you or a person related to your story, send a follow-up email thanking them for their time. This shows you value their work and keeps you at the front of their mind.
Maintaining the Relationship
Let’s say a journalist picks up your story and publishes it. Congratulations! That’s a huge win. Now it’s time to put some practices in place that will help you nurture that relationship.
It’s important to note, you should work on maintaining healthy relationships with all the journalists on your list, not just the ones that pick up your story. Remember, journalists are busy. Just because they weren’t interested in your last press release doesn’t mean they won’t pick up future stories.
Let’s go over some easy ways to maintain healthy journalist relationships.
Make Engagement a Habit
Follow all your favorite journalists on social media. You’ll find many of them on Twitter. Each month, make it a point to mention them and share a recent story they wrote that got your attention. This is an easy way to show you’re interested in their work. It also keeps you on their radar.
Offer Your Help
If a journalist wants to pick up your story, make yourself fully available to answer any questions they may have. If they need to run a story by their editor, ask them if they need anything that will support their conversation. Do this enough and a journalist may start coming to you when they need your industry expertise.
Meet in Person
Most of your interactions with journalists will be via email or phone. But if you want to maintain a strong relationship, offer to meet in person from time to time. This could be for a quick coffee and chat or to discuss an upcoming story. Meeting face-to-face may result in more insight into the journalist’s process and the stories that catch their eye.
Reach Out With Small Updates
If your business has an upcoming product launch or a new partnership in the works, sending a brief email to your journalist list is a great way to keep them in the know. Make it clear that you’re not pitching a story, but rather giving them a heads-up about something coming down the pike.
Offer Exclusives to Your Top Journalists
If you work with an industry journalist you particularly like, offer them the opportunity to be the first to write about a particular story. This will boost their interest in the news and strengthen your relationship.
Turn Your Contacts Into Relationships
The journalists you work with can have a huge impact on your brand reputation, visibility, lead generation and much more. Whether you’re a business or PR professional, fostering long-term, collaborative relationships can open up doors for everyone involved.
Remember, industry journalists are busy. Making connections that turn into partnerships may seem impossible, but following the steps above will help you build a dedicated media network you can nurture for years.