“For forever and a day, I shall chase that white whale.” – Captain Ahab, “Moby Dick”
Had Captain Ahab worked in public relations instead of whaling, his quote may have referred to securing the elusive, top-tier national coverage that so many clients seek.
Everyone wants to see their name in valued news outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. Unfortunately, those seeking this coverage don’t always know how to get there.
That doesn’t stop PR professionals from trying. We can be downright dogged in our pursuit of the great white whale. But often, pitching national media can seem like embarking on a round of cold calls, with a slim likelihood of success.
This is not to say you can’t be successful. Building relationships with national media requires preparation and effort. You must first establish familiarity to cultivate these relationships.
Here are a few tips that can help build relationships with national journalists and media, the white whale of PR.
It may seem simple but must never be overlooked: Journalists are people, and you must consider their interests and needs. Do your part to know and understand the media to whom you pitch. Familiarize with their outlet, their target audience, and the topics on which they’re writing. Before reaching out, ask yourself, “Why should they care about this news?” Be meticulous with news distribution; sharpen your press list accordingly to focus on journalists who cover topics that are hyper-relevant to your client and their specialty area. The extra legwork will make for an ideal fit and a win-win situation for all parties involved.
Like anyone else, journalists are busy people with loaded calendars. National media already have their list of stories to work on and hordes of folks fighting for their attention. When pitching news, allow time for journalists to digest the information and run it by their editors, should they need story approval. Remember: It’s their job to be ahead of a news story. Helping them anticipate what’s in the pipeline can help them plan for covering relevant news stories as they happen. Do your part as a PR professional to stay on top of news trends to inform relevant pitches. A heads-up in advance is unlikely to go unappreciated, and your effort to stay ahead of the curve will position you as a valued resource.
In the age of social media, there are many ways to put yourself on a journalist’s radar. Leverage social channels to your advantage to like, share, and comment on news stories or posts from journalists you follow. Sometimes, this can result in organic networking or relationship-building. If you land coverage, make sure to promote the article accordingly across your social channels. A simple story-share can go a long way toward building stronger relationships with media.
Media resources are indeed dwindling, but this doesn’t mean journalists are desperate for content. Above all else, journalists value quality news. When pitching stories, bring quality ideas to the table that are relevant to their audience and newsworthy. Provide as many components as you can to help them build a news story, such as good quotes and images or infographics to run with a potential article. Take steps on your end to make their job easier; it can only help your chances in securing that valued coverage.
Maintaining successful media relations requires effort. Devote time each week to media engagement. Once you’ve landed a successful pitch, try to keep an ongoing cadence of correspondence with the journalist approximately every month. Maybe you’ll have more news to pitch, or perhaps you want to comment on a story a journalist wrote that you enjoyed. Thank them for pitches they accept but also engage on those they reject. Make sure they know you’re available as an expert resource for upcoming stories.
Any successful relationship requires work. As PR professionals, we can only secure valued coverage by showing the journalists we rely on that we value their time and energy through dedicated preparation and engagement. By adhering to a few simple steps, the pursuit of top-tier coverage can become much less daunting and more likely to succeed.Tags: anticipate, building relationships, engagement, importance of planning, Journalists, Know your audience, media relationships, national media, national publications, New York Times, pitching, quality, Reporters, Social media, strategic planning, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post