Public Relations 101: How To Build Powerful Media Relationships

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Despite having your key messages outlined clearly in the release, if the email is sent to the wrong editor, this pitch is entirely pointless. Here’s how you build powerful media relationships in your career.

I attended a Public Relations seminar recently and interesting enough someone highlighted a valuable question which affects all PR practitioners new and seasoned though rarely brought up in public – how do you build media relationships?

How do you know who should you reach out to with a specific story? Sounds like a question only a rookie would ask, scoff some – but here’s the deal, even after years of pitching stories and press releases have we ever paused and took a minute to question why our stories never see the daylight of The Star or Channel News Asia? Despite having your key messages outlined clearly in the release, if the email is sent to the wrong editor, this pitch is entirely pointless. In fact, it does not end at knowing the right journalist contact either – if you can’t maintain the relationship and not just fake it for one media clipping.

Remember, the junior writer you meet today can be the editor in chief in a couple of years time so it’s crucial to be nice to everyone and generate genuine relationships!

Network Network Network.

Success rates with pitches are better when you can put a name to a face instead of sending a blind email. Take advantage of media events and seminars. There is no manual to the best PR practices so it won’t kill us to attend as many PR discussions and seminars to better ourselves in this industry. Not only will you pick up new skill sets and professional knowledge, you will also expand your current contacts.

Start a Media List.

It does not matter if you are a rookie or a seasoned public relations practitioner, having your very own personal media list will do wonders. Each and every agency or corporation may have their own media list, but having a separate one for yourself will often be an advantage when you handle different accounts and clients.

Keep one master list filled with all your contacts and media platforms as well as a dedicated list by campaign or customized by media type and genre. Consider the media list as a framework for you to keep track of each and every contact – who’s who, who writes about what. However, do not forget to keep this media list updated! It might sound tedious to keep track of, but if you have an outdated list it pretty much defeats the purpose of keeping your contacts organized. I would also propose linking your media contacts with your LinkedIn profile – helps when it comes to tracking job changes.

Learn from your competitors.

If you can’t beat them, you might just want to learn from them. All’s fair in love and war and this my dear friends will not count as being a copycat, of course depending on how you use what you’ve learned from your competitors. When monitoring media coverage, observe your competitor’s media coverage as well. If you notice your competitor securing media coverage from top-tier media platforms you might discover a new media contact which could be useful for future pitches.

Do your research.

Don’t call yourself a public relations practitioner if you can’t do basic good old research and stalking. Well, not of the criminal offence type but to keep yourself acquainted with what your media contacts like and hate. Social media stalking often speaks volumes when learning about people. You can find out about that mistake pitch that pissed off a journalist and avoids from committing a similar mistake. Social stalking can even help you list out if your media contact loves roses (ideal media gift idea) or is allergic to peanuts (avoid at all costs during media events). You might even want to add these notes to your media master list for future reference.

Always be engaging.

How do you sell a journalist a pitch when you don’t even read the content that they write about? It’s not rocket science, simply read their articles and see how it fits with the content you’re selling. Engage with them on social media or drop them a note  – compliment and highlight points that you found interesting in the article. This helps journalists recognize your name and view that you are interested in their articles. Most importantly, be genuine. Don’t just do this when you have a new story to sell!

Don’t underestimate catch up sessions.

So you’ve made new media contacts and managed to win a couple of press clippings and event attendance – the work doesn’t end there. Think of your media contacts like your friends – the second you abandon them they won’t remember you the next time a party or Raya open house comes up. Don’t underestimate that coffee catch up sessions and chats outside of work. If your agency or company can afford it, do not hesitate to invest in festivity media gifts for instance for Eid, Chinese New Year, Deepavali, Christmas, etc. You want to be known as the PR practitioner who remembers your contacts at all times and not just when you’re desperate for a media clipping.

As this article was written in my humble opinion, I would love to invite you to share your own tips which have worked wonders throughout building media relationships. Share with us and fellow PR practitioners in the comments below.

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