Extensive media contacts are an essential requisite for a successful career in PR but can also prove valuable to any business looking to use PR as a way to build profile and generate leads.
Developing a network of press contacts takes time and despite many years of experience, I still get nervous calling a journalist for the first time. For obvious reasons, reporters are time pressed and will often end a call abruptly.
Below are some top tips on how to build relationships with target journalists and editors.
1. Research your idea and jot down key points you'd like to get across. Don't forget to research what the reporter has written about recently. Understandably, a journalist will be rattled if you suggest a topic that they or their publication has recently covered.
2. Rehearse your pitch. Although email can be a good way to make initial contact, a follow up phone call is often necessary particuarly when dealing with a new contact. Weekly and monthly publications will have press days so try and find out when these are so you can avoid calling on deadline. Rehearse your pitch until you feel confident and, where possible, stand up and walk around when you make the call. This will help you relax and speak more fluently.
3. Meet deadlines - if a journalist likes your idea and asks for written comment or requests an interview, make sure you meet the deadline or give plenty of warning if this might not be possible.
4. Social media - engage with journalists on Twitter and Linkedin by liking and sharing their posts. This demonstrates not only that you appreciate their articles but also serves as a reminder of who you are and what you can do for them.
6. Trade journals - don't discount writers on obscure trade titles. Often these journalists will be young and ambitious and may well move to a more high profile title, even a national.
7. Coffee - once you’ve got to know a journalist a little suggest a brief meeting over coffee. More often than not, journalists are keen to expand their own contact list of trusted sources and putting a name to a face can be very helpful.
Since returning to work in 2015 following a mammoth career break (a decade to be precise!) it has taken a good deal of thought and effort to build a network of press contacts more or less from scratch. The good news is that reporters and editors tend to return time and time again to the same reliable PRs and sources so the hard work will pay off.