As newspaper readership continues to decline, so too will the size of newsrooms. Considering these numbers already have decreased by 25% since 2008, the future of media relations is a scary prospect for many operating in the public relations field. With smaller and leaner newsrooms, it’s more important than ever to forge relationships with reporters and editors.
If you ask a group of public relations practitioners how they’ve found success in the realm of media relations, it’s not likely you’ll get two of the same responses. This is because at its core, there is no exact science to media relations – what works for one might seem archaic to another. But there is one constant among media relations experts: They’ve worked hard cultivate and maintain relationships with reporters.
And while establishing these relationships might sound overwhelming, it can be less difficult than one might think. To accomplish this, start approaching your relationships with reporters like you treat your friendships.
Just like a friendship, it’s important to check-in with members of the media. It might seem like a good time to take a victory lap once your client has finished an interview, but there’s still work to be done. This outreach can be as simple as an email asking the reporter if they received everything they needed, and letting your contact know you’re available should they need anything else.
Maybe more importantly, it’s important to check-in at times when you don’t have a story idea to share. Was there a big piece of news that broke where the reporter is located? Did the reporter you work with break the story? Send your contact a note about it. This is a good way to show that you’re not just interested in landing something for a client. Rather, it shows that you’re interested in what they’re working on as a whole.
Remember, reporters are people, they’re not just a means for getting a story published. Just like we check in with our friends we haven’t seen or heard from in a while, do the same with reporters.
Know the reporter, like you know your friend
With the holiday season just behind us, this example is especially pertinent. Picture this, your friend is an avid fan of the Washington Nationals, and they’ve expressed interest in the teams’ young superstar, Juan Soto. You were being a really good friend last year and you wanted to get your friend a Soto jersey.
It’s not likely that you’d go out and purchase a Bryce Harper Philadelphia Phillies jersey for them. Because, well, why would you get your friend the jersey of a player who (to some) painfully left the team? That just wouldn’t make sense.
This also is the case for reporters. If you have a healthcare pitch ready to go, it’s not a good idea to send this to a reporter who is on the local sports beat. Do your research and know what the reporter is interested in reporting on.
Honesty is the best policy
You’ve worked to line up a reporter to attend an event and promised that reporter access to some of the attendees. But at the last second, plans have changed and the people who were promised no longer will be attending. It’s easy to slink back and let the reporter attend, like nothing has changed. However, it’s important to let them know of the changes because one, it’s the right thing to do, and two, it shows that you respect the time and energy of the reporter.
There will be other stories, especially if you treat reporters the right way. Just like it’s never a good idea to lie to your friends, the same is true with a reporter.
At the end of the day, everyone wants to be treated with respect. And once you start treating your relationships with reporters like you treat your friends, you’ll see better results in your media relations’ efforts.