How to connect and build relationships with journalists
Why Connect with Journalists?
While the role of print press in today’s society is widely debated and scrutinized, the role of journalists is as important as ever. In this digital, tech-driven age, journalists work across digital, print, mobile and more, increasing not only their importance but also their accessibility.
So if you are aiming to establish a strong PR programme and increase the likelihood of media opportunities and coverage for your brand, building relationships with journalists in your sector is imperative to achieving those goals. Below, we lay out a detailed timeline on how to forge and create long-lasting relationships with journalists.
Finding the Right Journalists
Those who fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Planning and researching are imperative before undertaking any task. If the foundations are wrong, the project is doomed and building a quality list of journalists is no different. The key is to ensure that you are pitching to the relevant journalists and that your pitches and stories align with their request. But where to start?
Prior to finding the right journalists, first familiarise yourself with your target market. Finding the channels and platforms they use most frequently will make life easier when it comes time to find the right journalists to contact and build that quality media list. Utilising free analytics tools; notably Google Analytics; gives you your users interests and the channels they use to view content, whether it be through blogs, television, newspapers, or magazines.
In regards to finding certain journalists, keep up-to-date with the goings on in your industry. Being subscribed to the relevant publications will keep you in the loop with the latest news, trends and developments in your sector. Identify the key journalists; regional and national; the topics they cover and the type of content they publish. Building relationships with the relevant media contacts from the start can save you a lot of time and effort in the future and can help cultivate a relationship between you and the media contact that can last for years.
Creating Google Alerts for specific keywords allows you to receive related news directly to your inbox, saving you time and effort. Furthermore, you can follow the publications you’ve identified as relevant for your business and your audience on Twitter which will make identifying the journalists you want to contact far easier. Tools like JournoLink make the process of identifying the right journalists swift and efficient, by sorting the database of journalists by sector and location. The filtering options allow you to choose with journalists to target depending on the content you publish.
Making Initial Contact
Be strategic and meticulous when making initial contact with a journalist. Be mindful that they receive many requests and solicitations from individuals seeking media coverage, so it’s crucial you make an impression. Ensure that your initial approach is creative and outside the box when pitching a story to a journalist or responding to a media request. Avoid cliches like the plague and analyse whether you have approached the topic from a unique angle.
With journalists receiving so many emails, content that closely fits with what he or she usually writes about or with their request is imperative. With that in mind, look closely at your piece. Does it evoke interest? Is it newsworthy? A journalist should want to cover your story and your target audience should want to read it. For example, approaching a story from a human/personal perspective, or backing up a story with relevant statistics can make a difference.
Timing is crucial, and aligning your content release with a journalist’s schedule will increase your chance of contact:
- Piggybacking on the news or on an event/awareness day. It shows you’ve done your research and it provides a news angle to the journalist.
- Build on your story on a previous article they’ve written. Journalists appreciate businesses that show interest in their work.
- Responding to media requests: Journalists are constantly looking for case studies and comments for their articles via Twitter or by using media enquiries services, so a great way to establish initial contact with a journalist is to respond to one of them.
Different channels to use to make initial contact
Once you are ready and sure you’ve got a worthy story, you can either:
- Email the journalists directly or send private messages on Twitter. It can be time-consuming but this technique is particularly effective if you link your story to a previous article they’ve written.
- Another option is to send a press release to a targeted database of journalists with a catchy headline. This will work better if you link your story to the news or to something happening in your industry.
- And your last option is, as we highlighted before, to simply respond to media requests via email or on Twitter.
JournoLink’s Media Request Feature is a simple and effective tool to keep an eye on these opportunities. Through the feature, journalists and bloggers send editorial requests directly to your inbox when they need a story or an expert’s opinion for their articles which allows an instant response on your behalf, emphasising your keenness and interest in the topic. This means that you receive daily, easy opportunities to receive media coverage, without necessarily even having to publish content.
Building Relationships Over Time
Once you’ve narrowed down your industry sector(s), key contacts in your field and made initial contact, you now need to build and maintain relationships with journalists to increase your chances of sustained media coverage. If a journalist knows they can rely on you for consistent, relevant, insightful content that matches their criteria, it saves them time and effort, and the pair of you can develop a relationship which can last a long time.
Maintain a database of the journalists who you’d like to receive attention from and help you to achieve desired press coverage. It will allow you to easily view their articles, store their contact details to enable swift responses and for future reference, as well as save links to your favourite pieces, which you can work into an initial contact. It not only shows you’ve done your homework but also everybody loves a bit of flattery. Furthermore, develop your relationship by maintaining contact. It needn’t be daily interaction but think of interesting ways to keep in touch, such as retweeting and sharing articles and commenting on their published pieces.
Building a targeted list on social media is fantastic for cultivating relationships with journalists, bloggers and broadcasters. A Twitter List is a curated group of Twitter accounts. You can create your own or join Lists created by others. You can use Twitter Lists in numerous ways:
- Viewing a List timeline allows you to check at a glance what the users from that List have been posting, with the most recent posts at the top of the timeline.
- The platform is a great pitching resource. Utilise your List to view the journalist’s tweet/request in an instant and be one of the first individuals to reply and pitch your story.
- You can add journalists to a specific List and you don’t have to be following them to add them to the said List.
- You can build lists specific to each of your target audience..or example, one list could contain journalists in a geographical area, while another could contain reporters who focus on topics in your industry.
Importance of Social Media to connect with journalists
Following on from the previous paragraph, social media is a great place to keep abreast of the latest news, trends and industry updates. Companies are actively posting, interacting with users so it’s a real pool of information and trends that you can use for your campaigns. More importantly, social media platforms, particularly Twitter, are great for contacting journalists and bloggers as they are regularly active and open to interaction.
Journalists are open to interaction on numerous social media platforms
Aside from your website, these platforms are the best place to showcase your brand, stories and achievements. Through techniques such as building a social following, capitalising on the popularity of hashtags and planning many of your PR campaigns around major days and events, you can not only increase the likelihood of attracting media coverage but also build your brand recognition, profile and attract more web traffic.