Building Media Relationships that Matter

December 4, 2014

My older brother and I have a long-running joke; whenever he calls and exclaims, “How’s my favorite sis today?!” … I respond dryly with, “What do you need now?” Since I am his ONLY sister, we both know only a favor request can follow a syrupy, disingenuous line like that!

Our tongue-in-cheek jabbing is laughable because, of course, we have a relationship beyond favor requests. Unfortunately, the above scenario is often to blame when a media pitch goes wrong. What’s missing is the “relationship” part of the pitch.

Building relationships with individual reporters and editors is too often overlooked until you need them to cover a news event, run a press release or portray your company positively during a crisis situation. If you have not already built trust and confidence in your company with news writers and on social channels before a crisis, the negative angle will likely be the headline. Companies can’t afford to wait for a fire, explosion or accident to meet the reporters who will write about it.

Crisis communication plans are imperative to have in place ahead of a potential crisis and provide the roadmap for what actions to take when a crisis is happening. But media relationship building must begin long before a crisis communication plan is in motion.

Imagine a crisis hits your company today. Can you pick up the phone and call a reporter that you have built a relationship with to offer the first interview? Will your social community go viral to support you?

Engaging with media professionals and social communities is actually very similar to cultivating relationships with co-workers, family and friends. Investing time in learning about a reporter’s interests, needs and what they are writing about is a good first step. This insight builds a bridge to connect with the reporter about something other than a company press release.

Here are more tactics to start building media relationships that matter:

  1. Read what the reporter writes and provide positive feedback on industry stories that don’t involve your company.
  2. Connect on social media and promote reporters’ stories.
  3. Engage with your social community in a way that establishes your company as an influencer and builds trust. Reporters will take notice.
  4. Adopt a “how can I help you” attitude. Instead of making an “ask” of a reporter every time, find ways to help reporters do their jobs more effectively and efficiently.
  5. Become a source of story ideas and industry information. This is where thought leadership comes into play. If reporters know they can count on you for a story angle or industry insight, your call or email will always be answered.
  6. Email them without pitching them. In Ed Zitron’s book, This Is How You Pitch, he writes about sending reporters emails using the subject line, “not a pitch,” just to see how they’re doing. That’s what genuine relationships are built on.

Fostering relationships with media professionals takes effort and engagement in a similar way personal relationships do. But it’s worth it when you call to make a request or your company is in crisis and the reporter’s first thought isn’t, “What do you need now?”