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Gemma Sowerby and Ellie Maddin

Published on

January 24, 2019


journalism, media relations, professional skills

Whether six months or six years into your PR career, media relations will always be the bread and butter of your job – after all, it’s where we all began. It turns out that the importance of collaboration doesn’t just apply to internal or agency-client teams, but it should apply to PR-media relationships too.

We recently attended a PRmoment event that discussed what makes a good tech story. One point every panellist stressed was how critical it is for PRs to build strong relationships with the media. The aim for PRs should be to build a relationship with the media where you can start the conversation at an early stage and develop an idea – and then the next, and then the next, together.

So, how do you make this goal reality? Two words: journalist meetings.

Rewind to just before Christmas, and there was no slowing down for the festive season. We had a morning of firsts – it was my first journalist meeting since beginning the LEWIS graduate academy, an important milestone in any young PR’s career, and it was SAE and ex-grad Gemma’s highly anticipated first cinnamon roll from Danish bakery Ole & Steen. But shockingly, we aren’t here to talk about the cinnamon roll…

I secured the meeting after working with a journalist on a piece on increasing diversity in analytics and the tech industry for my client SAS – a topic of particular interest to this journalist. What’s more, the journalist was editing a brand new publication, and with diversity an important topic across our client base and our work with PwC’s Tech She Can Charter continuing into 2019, we wanted to nurture this relationship.

During my first meeting, I learnt a lot about creating PR-journo relationships that stick – and despite two years in the game, Gemma learnt a few things too. Here are our top tips after my first, and Gemma’s not-exactly-first, journalist meeting.

Ellie’s top tips after the first meeting:

  • Start the conversation – if you don’t jump, you can’t fly
  • Build a relationship – you want to be able to go to each other for ideas and input, and not just for you but for your team. Journalists are always looking for a two-way street
  • Find out what piques their interest and whether your clients can provide comments or thought leadership on that particular subject – the more niche, the better!
  • Be prepared – journalist meetings are a great test to see if you can convey who your clients are, their message and their objectives concisely and (most importantly) in a compelling way. This will come in handy for the rest of your career

Gemma’s top tips after the nth meeting:

  • Get into their heads – dig hard (but not too hard) to figure out why the journalist wants to write about certain topics. When it comes to selling controversial but media-friendly topics to wary clients, you’ll need proof points – and where better than straight from the horse’s journalist’s mouth?
  • Ask around – make sure you’ve quizzed all your colleagues on any questions or ideas for the journalist you’re meeting. You want every catch-up to count for the whole agency, not just your clients. Sharing is caring!
  • Movers and shakers – getting the inside track on journalists who have recently moved or who are setting up new publications is a great way to show your media relations ROI. There’s only so much information you can find on Twitter or Gorkana alerts – and there’s nothing like catching up on the goss over coffee and cake
  • Location, location, location – it’s not easy finding somewhere quiet, but not too quiet, with the right ambience and the right selection of coffee… but one piece of advice when choosing – take a stab at somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit. That long-awaited cinnamon roll (or Peruvian tapas, or Brick Lane brunch) will be worth it when the coverage rolls in…

In a world – and an industry – where we are consumed by communicating via email or the phone, putting a face to the name is a refreshing reminder that there is no need to be nervous. Whether it’s your first meeting or your forty-first, we are all human – and fingers crossed, the journalist wants to meet you just as much as you want to meet them!

I learned a lot from my first meeting that I can put into practice for future meetings with journalists from across the B2B, consumer, and national press. There are plenty more relationships to forge, new publications to learn about, and story ideas to flesh out – and there are more cinnamon rolls to eat, too…

Do get in touch