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Building relationships: PR pros talk on connecting with journalists

Building BlocksBuilding relationships with journalists is an important part of public relations, as they’re often the gatekeepers of mainstream news outlets. inVocus asked PR professionals to weigh in on tips for building mutually beneficial relationships with reporters and editors. Here’s a list of 10 tips from various pros.

Brittany Berger, digital content supervisor, eZanga.com

If you want to start a relationship with a journalist in your niche, begin sharing and responding to pieces they write. You can use a tool like Newsle, Google Alerts or RSS feeds to find out whenever they post something new. Read it, comment, and share it on social media. This shows them that you actually follow their work and don’t just email them when you need something from them.

Ryan Ruud, vice president of marketing, result150

Biggest tip I can provide: be cognizant of the journalist’s job. This means take the time to understand what they cover and their style, and tailor your pitch to them. This also means, put yourself in their shoes. Journalists are busy, so get to the point. Don’t waste their time harassing them with long pitches or begging them to establish these great relationships where you braid each other’s hair and gab about American Idol. Chances are they’re chasing another deadline and don’t have the time. At most, you might be able to snag a coffee with them sometime, but don’t set high expectations. Best bet, see if they have online personas like Twitter, that’s your best foot in the door for starting a relationship.

Matt Diaz, account manager, No Limit Agency

The most simple tip is to ask them what they’re working on, ask them if they are on deadline, and ask them what types of stories they need. Have a conversation with them. Just like in any relationship, if you’re doing all the talking, you’re probably doing it wrong.

Judy Crockett, owner consultant, Interactive Marketing & Communication

Present information in a format the journalist can use. As the general sales manager at a radio station group, I once received a large packet of PR information from a reputable advertising agency promoting their client, a small business just outside my coverage area. It contained two glossy, colored photos, about six different press releases, a lot of contact information, and much other useless information for a radio station. I was insulted that the agency was looking for free coverage and then expected me to sort through pages and pages of useless information expecting me to find the story. The ad agency spent a ton of the business’ ad budget on a packet that went straight into recycling.

David E. Johnson, CEO, Strategic Vision LLC

Even if you don’t have a client who fits the need of the journalist but know of a person who does, suggest that person to the journalist to become a resource.

Emily Taffel, owner, Mugsy PR

Don’t be afraid of anyone. The editor of O Magazine, the producer for the Today Show, etc. — they are all just people, so treat them like a person.

Kate Rice, senior media relations manager, ComboApp

Reach out: even when you’re not actively pitching a client, it’s nice to reach out every once in a while to see how they are doing and ask if they’re working on anything you can help them with — even if it means connecting them with a company which is not your client or a PR flack who is not at your agency. Reporters will remember you are willing to help, even if it doesn’t directly benefit you, and will start coming to you independently for help with articles.

Glenn Gillen, senior account manager, S&A Cherokee

I practice what I call the 5 R’s of Media Relations:

Be Respectful
Be Responsive
Be Reliable
Be Realistic
And above all, be a good Resource

Ricky Shockley, search marketing specialist, Web Success Agency

I think the most important aspect of developing relationships with journalists is through social media; especially Twitter. This allows you to stay in tune with what matters to them, show an interest in their work, and develop a dialogue. Showing a sincere interest BEFORE you need for/ask for anything is important.

Sandy Han, PR director, Media Maison

Organic isn’t a word just for food. In the highly competitive world of PR, everyone is looking to get ahead by doing everything fast, fast and faster. But when it comes to building relationships with media, it’s incredibly important to slow down and organically let the relationship develop over time. This allows you to understand each individual journalist’s working style [and] needs, which in return allows you to effectively pitch your clients.

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