Developing Relationships with Media: 10 Best Practices

During the first few years on the job, your media relations results will be a major staple of your performance reviews.

Think of it this way. Over the course of a few months, your manager will have asked your team to draft media materials, build target lists, pull research and many other tasks. Those tasks will likely be completed.

Media relations, however, is unique in this regard. If everyone on your team has had equal opportunities to pitch media, it’s not as black and white as completing a task, as some team members may show up empty-handed.

This list is here to prevent that from happening.

  1. Save every contact: After every email you receive from media, right-click and add the contact to your Outlook. Add any details that will help your recall down the road, including location, what you were pitching and what the feedback was. I like to include a category (Sports Radio, Blogger, Soccer, etc.), as well as other info that’s accessible, including Twitter handles, best times to call and interview bookings. After a year of saving every contact, you should have dozens of relationships in the making.
  2. Introduce yourself as a resource: What I often do when I’m not pitching media is proactively search for future contacts. I work on a lot of sports and motorcycle-focused accounts, so I search relevant keywords on LinkedIn to find media that will be a good fit for my account work. Rather than waiting for a story to come around to send them a note, I prefer to introduce myself as a resource and ask how I can help them.
  3. Make their life easier: When working with a contact on a story or media tour, send thorough, yet concise emails to avoid flooding their inbox and/or increasing the chance of a detail slipping between the cracks. Showing your contact that you are making their life easier will go a long way in strengthening the relationship.
  4. Follow up: Before a story goes live, follow up with your contact to see if he/she received everything they needed. Spend some extra time to double-check facts — this 2-3 minutes certainly beats a frantic phone call the next day, as you’re begging for a  revision. Develop this routine early with a contact to show to set the precedent. Don’t ask to review the story before it is published — that’s generally bad form — but be transparent about your client needs (program attribution, title information, website URLs, etc.).
  5. Check in: Instead of letting a relationship go cold, send an occasional note, even when you’re not pitching a story. This could lead to future ideas — otherwise, it’s simply good networking that will keep your name relevant in your contact’s inbox.
  6. Give and take: When a reporter agrees to write a story for you, also cater to their needs. Going the extra mile to track down a statistic or second source your contact requested will result in them doing the same for you. Always treat the relationship as a give and take.
  7. Mind the clock: In your contact’s Outlook card notes, write down the times of day he/she can be reached and their preference of communication (email, phone, text). Even if the person is a great contact, don’t take advantage of the relationship by waiting until their deadline to make the call. This can easily be prevented by asking in the upfront — or simply by tracking the times of day they respond to your emails.
  8. Tap other accounts: You will likely have other accounts in the office that could benefit from your media relationship, if you work at an agency. When you hear around cubeland that a relevant spokesperson is available for interviews, offer to shop the opportunity to your contact.
  9. Conform to their style: Some media members like slideshows; others prefer long narratives. Do a bit of research by reading your contact’s stories to find the best way to conform your pitch to their writing style. This doesn’t just factor in the type of post, but also the angle. Some media look for a local angle, while others look at the big picture. Sending a pitch in your contact’s preferred style will be more likely to resonate.
  10. Avoid conflicts: While you’ll want to maximize coverage for your client, be cautious of giving your contact’s primary competitor the same story, as this has the potential to make them feel devalued. In-market media tours are more forgiving, as it is important to fill your spokespersons day with interviews, but there are many occasions that finding one reporter for a story will pay dividends. Advertise the fact to your contact that he/she has been selected for the opportunity, and you will likely receive coverage that is in-depth and full of your program’s message points. Exclusive content is also more likely to get syndicated to other major outlets.

Photo credit goes to deviantart member Kevrekidis.

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