Why Earned Media Is Relationship Building 101

In today’s rapidly changing news cycle, how do you develop high quality, lasting relationships with journalists?

It can be helpful to think of creating meaningful relationships with journalists just as you would go about making a friend or forming a romantic relationship. Don’t worry I’m not suggesting an expensive wine and dine approach. At its core, successful media relations is about building a connection, being supportive, encouraging thoughtful dialogue and developing trust.

The transformation into becoming a reporter’s go-to resource will not happen overnight, it takes time. Follow these simple steps to become a reporter’s valued resource:

  1. Do your research.
  2. Respect the relationship.
  3. Follow through.

Successful media outreach relies on good groundwork.

Before pitching a reporter, spend time researching their recent articles and social media archive, especially if the types of stories they share correlate to what they cover. Familiarize yourself with what topics they’re interested in and how they liked to be pitched. Research their social media profiles, discover what topics are top of mind and strategize how you can connect the dots to tie your pitch to their interests!

Be respectful of a reporter’s time.

It’s important that we all recognize that the media landscape has changed. Reporters are trying to craft great work faster and with less resources.  Newsrooms are shrinking. Reporters no longer stay on the same beat, covering the same issue year after year. Reporters, especially those working for outlets covering local and regional news, are often being asked to cover an ever-widening list of topics. As public relations professionals, we need to adjust our expectations and meet their changing needs. Position your client as the best resource to help a reporter deliver a high quality story.

“To build a relationship that is mutually beneficial for all parties involved, communications professionals need to be seen as an asset.”

As a story develops, don’t be afraid to refer a reporter to other sources. Referring out a media query might not pay off with coverage in the short term, but finding a spokesperson who can speak to the exact situation in question will pay dividends down the road. A reporter will remember the communications person who helped them craft an effective story. They will learn to trust your guidance and expertise.

Don’t jeopardize a blossoming relationship over an inadvertent error.

We’ve all been there, you found a reporter who is receptive to your pitch and it results in a story and a media mention for your client. Great! But after closely reading the story, you realize there is a mistake in the coverage. Don’t fret, the relationship isn’t doomed and all is not lost. First, thank the reporter for their work and then gently ask if they are willing to make a correction. Reporters don’t want to include errors in their work, akin to having spinach in your teeth during a presentation or on a blind date. When you reach out, do not to imply in any way that a reporter isn’t doing their job well. That will quickly nip a blossoming relationship in the bud.

Media relations doesn’t end after a story goes to press.

Use social media and other promotional channels to make sure great coverage, and great reporting, is seen and shared. Reporters want their stories to be read, discussed and commented upon just as much as you want your cause or product to be featured in the pages or on the site of top-tier publications. It’s up to us to take the extra step and follow through. Publicly thank a reporter for their coverage of an issue or product. Please and thank you are still rules to live by!

Have a thick skin and don’t give up.

Developing relationships takes time. You will send countless pitches to reporters over the course of your career. Many reporters will blow you off and not return your calls, but persistence is key. Continue to reach out and show you can be an effective resource, even if it doesn’t directly benefit your client at the moment; stay on top of current trends and provide innovative story ideas; send thoughtful feedback on a reporter’s work and over time you will build relationships that benefit you and your clients.

Here at Proof we pride ourselves on cultivating meaningful relationships. Visit the Public Relations section of our website to learn more about our innovative approach to media relations.

Luci Manning

Account Director
Luci’s keen attention to detail serves her well in building relationships with media, influencers and clients. Luci believes that earned media outreach, and amplifying great coverage using social and digital media, solidifies her client’s initiatives, advocacy efforts and key messages. Before coming to Proof Strategies, Luciworked at PR Solutions, Inc. for nearly 15 years honing her passion for progressive issues and working with foundations, nonprofits and associations. In her free time, she enjoys watching college basketball, knitting and baking to calm her nerves after watching a tight game and seeking out the best tacos in the D.C. metro area.

About Proof Strategies

With 275+ awards for client work and industry leadership, the independently owned Proof family of companies (Proof Strategies, Inc., Proof, Inc., Proof Experiences, Inc.) has over 165 staff members in offices in Toronto, Montréal, Ottawa, Vancouver and Washington, D.C., and annual fee income of $30 million. As a brand steward to some of North America’s most respected and well-known companies, the firm’s strategic approach is guided by data-driven research, deep subject expertise, smart creative and meticulous measurement. A corporate leader in the age of climate change, Proof Strategies, Inc. has been carbon neutral since 2008.

One response to “Why Earned Media Is Relationship Building 101”

  1. Hi Luci.
    Thank you for your perspective. Having worked on both sides of the aisle as reporter/ editor and communications officer, I would say the discussion should be widened. Communications officers are often encouraged to do all within their power to cultivate good relationships with the media so that their clients / agency can be well represented. This is often interpreted as having to meet reporters more than half way.
    On the other hand not enough is done to encourage media reps to be more professional in dealing with the persons from whom they wish to get information or a quote.
    For example, you said the reporters time should be respected. What does mean? If a broadcast reporter calls 15 minutes before news time for a reaction to an accusation or seeking clarification and you indicate that time is needed to get all the facts together and put their query in context, and this is not done within the 15 minutes deadline, and an item is aired which includes the quote “Efforts to get a comment from ABC etc were unsuccessful” who is disrespecting whose time?
    Undoubtedly some agencies take a long time to respond having to clear various levels of bureaucracy and protocol not to mention legal channels, but some reporters make contact with a sense of arrogance too. ” I have already written the story. I am only paying you the courtesy of responding.” Indeed sometimes it is clear that clarification provided is just tacked on at the end to suggest some attempt at balance.
    Reporters need to be reminded that it is a two way street – the most professional ones tend to be treated with the respect with which they approach they persons from whom they want to get information.
    On need not be combative in making these points but in dialogue, it is important to raise them.

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