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Libby Barnes

Published on

January 28, 2021



With a crowded news agenda and an ever-changing media landscape to contend with, maintaining strong relationships with journalists has never been more important. Whilst it’s no secret that PR professionals can’t do their jobs effectively without journalists, journalists rely on PRs too - something that rings true even during times of uncertainty and change.

Telling our clients’ stories throughout the pandemic has meant being mindful of news outlets covering breaking news, furloughing employees, laying off staff and or even shutting down all together. To be successful, we have had to change our approach to solidify the ever-scrutinised journalist-PR relationship and achieve stellar coverage for our clients. As uncertainty continues to dominate, here are some key tips for continuing to build meaningful relationships with journalists.

1. Reach out to offer a helping hand

In times like these, a small gesture can go a long way. Think about nurturing existing media relationships as well as growing new ones. Reaching out to find out what a journalist is currently writing, digging into, or planning to write soon – you might be able to help ease their workload.

In turn, offering to connect a journalist with a credible and relevant spokesperson could play a key role in strengthening their piece – and your working relationship for the future. They will also gain a better understanding of what your clients can offer commentary on and reach out to you for input more regularly. To make this work, we need to make sure we are offering the best, most relevant spokespeople we can – not trying to make a square peg fit a round hole.

2. The power of the phone pitch

Pitching over the phone allows you to make long-lasting connections with journalists – a friendly voice can really brighten someone’s day while in lockdown! Make your pitch short, outgoing and to the point over the phone, but do so while painting a picture inside the reporter’s head. Recent pitching for the TomTom Traffic Index saw incredible national coverage in The Daily Mail, PA Media and Sky News – all through the power of picking up the phone.

This method also allows you to gather valuable journalist feedback more easily than email pitching. In the current climate, this feedback can help steer client stories and increase success. Alternatively, if your emails are going unanswered and voicemails are left unopened, Twitter is also a great way to reach out. Whether you respond to a #journorequest or slide into a journo’s DMs, Twitter is a platform that often goes unnoticed when it comes to communications.

3. Build trust to strengthen relationships

Trust is a crucial ingredient to a successful PR-journalist relationship, now more than ever. From the side of the journalist, this may be respecting an embargo, or a PR professional sticking to an exclusive offer. Understandably, building trust may take time but having a professional, trustworthy reputation has great benefits. Building a trusting relationship with an individual doesn’t have to stop there – this might open up the opportunity for a reporter to put you in contact with a colleague who covers a different beat too, creating contacts for different clients in different industries, and spreading the coverage around.

4. Go the extra mile

Make an effort to understand the journalist’s job and specifics of their beat – the news agenda can be challenging at the moment and often overwhelming. Ahead of time, think about what a journalist might need from you to make their job easier. Is it attaching supporting images to your pitch so they can get it online quickly? Or providing them with a spokesperson biography without them having to ask? To get a better understanding of your journalists ‘pain points’, why not follow them on Twitter – this may give you some insights into what makes them tick, and crucially, what doesn’t.

5. Pitch stories with a personal angle

With hundreds of emails a day on COVID-19 content, journalists will be on the lookout for unique angles, perspectives and stories that perfectly match their patch. Instead of taking a shot in the dark, take the time to research a journalist’s background and tailor your idea and pitch to meet these interests. For example, reading some of their recent work or delving into their job history can help to form the perfect pitch. Avoid the ‘spray and pray’ method, which in this day and age, only clutters journalists’ inboxes and makes its way to their deleted folder – wasting PRs’ precious time.

Whether it be directly or indirectly, most sectors have been affected by coronavirus in some way, and media relations is no different. Applying these top tips may take some extra research and additional time but can help to achieve coverage targets immeasurably. Most importantly, it ensures you are always representing your company and clients in the right way.

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help spread the word about your business, take a look at our PR services or get in touch.

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