If you worked in PR back in the 80s and 90s, you might still have nightmares about press clippings, heavy directories filled with often out-of-date journalist contacts, and networking in sticky or smokey (and sometimes both) pubs. Thankfully, times have moved on, and so has the PR-journalist relationship.
For our latest webinar, ‘From pitch to published – A guide to media relations in 2023’, founder and managing partner of Wadds Inc. Stephen Waddington shared up-to-date approaches for connecting with the media now. Here’s what all PR and comms people need to know.
Watch the full webinar here, and download the accompanying white paper ‘From pitching to getting published: A PR’s guide to media relations in 2023’.
The basics of building media relationships
Get to know the media before you get in touch
‘The fundamentals of media relations have never changed throughout my career and getting to know journalists and broadcasters is as important as ever. Get to know their beats, their publications, and their interests.
‘When I started my career, we had to read the national newspapers every morning and listen to radio news. Research was all part of the role, and we’d do well to remember that now.
‘With LinkedIn and Twitter, it’s easier than ever to understand what journalists are writing about. We have no excuses.’
Remember that journalists are people and not content machines
‘The relationship between a journalist and a PR practitioner should be equitable. It’s a common view that there’s been an erosion of equality since the height of COVID-19 because of the lack of face-to-face meetings. That can be true. But a personal approach – understanding their professional and personal sphere (which you can, thanks to social networks) – goes a long way to creating a relationship.
‘Recognise birthdays, recognise anniversaries, comment on articles that journalists write. It surprises me how few PRs ever thank a journalist, or even share their copy after it’s been produced. We all have our own social media channels and we can do that.’
‘Newsrooms have always been driven by deadlines, but nowadays metrics are an important feature and all journalists have KPIs to hit. Understanding that and how your content can help them hit those metrics can provide you with an additional opportunity to appeal to a journalist’s interest.
‘Provide a package of material that will provide longevity as assets on that media outlet’s website – give them more than a press release.’
‘It’s important that you support journalists to hit their deadlines; don’t waste their time. Be straight-forward, be honest, and be candid in dealing with these relationships.’
The impact of working from home on pitching
Be creative with your storytelling
‘It’s harder than ever to do a call around and get hold of journalists. Instead, we use Twitter DMs and online platforms to establish relationships. A journalist’s phone number is a ‘second level’ of the relationship now. This puts an extra pressure on PRs – you have to be creative with your pitching.’
Get social on social media
‘Us PRs are going through a weird relationship phase with Twitter because of all the change happening. The media still uses it and so do PRs. It’s a really useful way to spot opportunities when journalists are calling out for sources and for material.’
Change with the new working cycle
‘Working from home changed newsrooms – it’s less collaborative. The notion that there was a fixed cycle to the way a newsroom works – sending pitches before morning conferences – has changed. The morning conference is still there as a medium to discuss the news agenda, but there are opportunities throughout the day – we can newsjack an emerging news story.’
The role of technology in managing relationships
Use social media as a listening tool
‘Twitter and Linkedin are great ways to keep track of a journalist’s work. When I started in PR, I used a rolodex, and I encourage anyone working in media relations practice these days to use your social network in the same way.’
Dip into databases
‘Databases like Vuelio provide a way to sift through a media list. Reach deeper into those to build relationships.
‘There’s been a shift to using CRMs and media databases to build and track relationships you have as a team – particularly in large organisations and in Public Affairs. A single point of truth for a team when pitching helps you understand who has pitched a journalist and how it landed.’
Manage your messages
‘There are a range of platforms for connecting with the media – I’m going to call out the ResponseSource Journalist Enquiry Service, but there are also hashtags on social media where journalists are asking for contacts and case studies.’
The changing value of face-to-face meetings and press events
‘In-person meetings are viewed as premium opportunities now. It’s going to be really challenging to get a journalist out to come and meet you. There has to be significant public interest or a level of complexity, you have to offer something additional.’
Tools and techniques
Think like a journalist
‘You have to think like a journalist in the modern public relations environment. Immerse yourself in the news and take a genuine interest, in real time. Understand what they need in order to write a story. We’re all under pressure in a commercial environment – help journalists meet their objectives.’
Pitch to your audience
‘Journalists are an intermediary between you and the audience you want to reach, so if you take an audience perspective when pitching, that’s going to put you in good stead.’
‘When interviewed for our white paper, advice from 10 Yetis’ Andy Barr was simple – don’t push a dead story, do your research before pitching, and don’t be creepy in your pitching. In other words: “Don’t be a dick”.’
For more, download the white paper ‘From pitching to getting published: A PR’s guide to media relations in 2023’.