Skip Navigation Accessibility Statement

The 2024 State of the Media Report

Get actionable insight from 3,000+ journalists on what they truly want and need from PR teams.

Valentine’s Vibes: 5 Ways to Woo Journalists and Build Better Media Relationships

two professionals having a conversation with microphones

The relationship between public relations professionals and journalists is often complicated. According to journalists surveyed for our 2023 State of the Media Report, they value their relationships with PR professionals; however, they also admit there are a few things their public relations counterparts could do to step up their game. 

For example, journalists are often feeling overworked, under-resourced, and overburdened with tight deadlines. Though they are never at a loss for PR pitches to help fuel their stories – 76% report getting over 50 pitches every week – the vast majority of those pitches are completely wrong for their audience or the topics they cover. 

Despite these circumstances, journalists are eager for meaningful and genuine interactions with PR and comms professionals. After all, they have a few things in common: They’re passionate about telling great stories and engaging with their audiences. 

So, what’s the key to their heart? We asked journalists about the top ways PR professionals can show they care (for the sake of their relationships). Here’s what they had to say:

1. Test Your Chemistry - Research Journalists Before You Pitch

Taking time to understand reporters and their audience is crucial if you want to establish any sort of rapport with them. Seventy-four percent of journalists want PR pros to do a better job of understanding their target audience and what they find relevant. And it’s not just a friendly request – they mean it. Three in four (76%) say they’ll block the pros that spam them with irrelevant pitches. 

So how can you make sure your chemistry is right before sending a pitch? Research the beats, favored topics, content styles, and individual preferences for each media contact before reaching out. Customize your story angle, share relevant data and survey findings, weave in quotes from company execs or third-party experts, and give a link to multimedia elements they can easily access. 

Overwhelmingly, the outreach methods that impress journalists the most are the ones that show you’ve taken the time to understand them, their audience, and content that they would find relevant. By catering your outreach and content to each media contact, you have a stronger chance of getting their attention and sending sparks flying.  

2. Give ‘Em What They Want - Focus on the Content Journalists Actually Need

Focus on where you can provide the most value to your media partners. Thankfully, there’s no need to guess - we heard directly from journalists on what they want most from PR and comms professionals: 

  • Notification of new/ upcoming events (63%)
  • Help finding sources (58%)
  • Provide new/interesting story ideas (47%)
  • Provide exclusive information (47%)
  • Give access to events (44%)

To really make a journalist’s day, give them data. Sixty-six percent of journalists want data in the form of original research, surveys, industry trends, as well as expert sources/quotes. You can also share upcoming topics on your list to pitch to garner early interest. 

Delivering what they really want (and need) goes a long way toward creating media relationships that last. The easier you make it for journalists to do their jobs, the more they will want to work with you.

3. Look Your Best - Provide Multimedia in Your Pitch

Sharing a few pixel-perfect visuals can win you major points with journalists. Thirty percent of reporters now use multimedia more in stories, and 27% say it makes their life easier to receive relevant visual collateral from PR professionals. Make your pitch even more attractive by providing graphics, images, videos, data visualizations, logos, and more. 

Check the journalist’s previous stories to see what types of multimedia assets they’ve used in the past so you can cater what you include in your pitch. Just make sure your email avoids the “spam” folder by supplying a link instead of adding as attachments. 

Getting creative with visuals shows extra effort and helps your media contacts captivate their audiences.

4. Avoid the Red Flags - Don't Get Yourself Blocked by Media Partners

Sometimes knowing what not to do is just as important as knowing what to do. For our survey, we also asked journalists to weigh in on some of the experiences they’ve had working with PR professionals that they weren’t so fond of. Avoid the following behaviors, which are more than just red flags for many journalists – for the majority of journalists, these approaches will get you blocked altogether:  

  • Red flag: “Spamming” media contacts with irrelevant pitches. According to our survey, 76% of journalists will block a PR professional who send pitches that have no relevance to them. And that’s saying a lot: only 7% of journalists say the majority of pitches they get are relevant to their audience. All the more reason to do the research and cater your pitch to each media contact before you hit “send.”  
  • Red flag: Providing inaccurate or unsourced information. For nearly two thirds of journalists (62%), nothing will hurt your credibility more than providing a journalist with inaccurate or unvetted information. Make sure the information included in your pitch is ready for prime time. 
  • Red flag: Sending pitches that sound like marketing brochures. Fifity-seven percent of journalists won’t think twice about blocking a PR professional who just wants them to act as a sales rep for them.  Journalists are looking for data and information they can craft into newsworthy stories, so avoid the sales jargon and clickbait terminology. 
  • Red flag: Following up repeatedly. The majority of journalists don’t have time to respond to multiple follow ups – and a full 55% won’t stand for it. Following up on your pitch within a week feels appropriate to most journalists, but resist the urge to continue reaching out. Fifty-seven percent of journalists do not want more than one follow-up communication. 

5. Make the First Move - Personalize Your Media Outreach and Track Engagement

Just like modern day dating, there are tools that can be a huge help in finding the right media matches. A quality, comprehensive media relationship management platform is key to finding – and connecting with – the journalists and influencers who will tell your story best. 

Platforms like CisionOne Outreach, for example, give you access to intel on media partners that even the most in-depth web searches might not be able to uncover. Beyond unveiling media contacts and outlets you didn’t even know existed, you can also get key background information that will help you customize your pitch - from recent stories and areas of interest to social media activity and contact preferences. You can even formulate, customize, and send messages to those contacts directly from the platform – making it easy to track your outreach and adjust your messaging, based on who engages most. (You can also see who’s not engaging, so you can be sure to avoid those aforementioned red flags that can get you blocked.) 

Happily Ever After

The tips above are just a starting point to building long-lasting, mutually beneficial media relationships. Just like a romantic relationship, impactful connections with journalists take time, care, and understanding on both sides. 

To hear more on what journalists want from PR and comms professionals, watch our on-demand webinar featuring prominent journalists discussing the PR strategies that truly get their attention. 

To learn how CisionOne’s media relationship management platform can help you find the right journalists for your story, take a tour of the platform now, or speak with an expert. 

About Amy O'Connell
About Amy O'Connell

Amy O'Connell is the Global Content and Experience Producer at Cision. She is a skilled marketing and communications professional with over 15 years of experience across various industries.