Over the years we’ve given several tips on how to maintain positive relationships with the media, from pitching the right contact to being responsive to adhering to deadlines.
To continue our series on relationships, we’re going to discuss building one (a relationship) with the media. When it comes to clients/customers we’ve likened the relationship to dating.
With the media – it can become like dating, but it’s actually kind of like meeting the parents, grandparents, siblings, etc. of the person you’re dating. Except you have to use your imagination here and have some flexibility in this scenario, because no, your client (nor you) are related to the media (unless by some strange coincidence you or your client really are related to the media).
Stay with us now. What we’re doing here is “likening” the relationship.
You’ll have to think back to when you were dating or if you’re currently dating just think of your life now. When you are dating someone and s/he takes you to meet his/her parents or family members for the first time, well, sometimes the pressure is even greater than the first date. Yes, we could’ve made the scenario more simple and likened the media to someone you date, too – which is the case sometimes – but if things go well in your media outreach, well…you end up dating all kinds of media (and you can see where the dating analogy can get messy)!
Instead, we’re making the media your beloved’s family members. When you meet or are in front of family members, you are typically on your very best behavior. All the time. You definitely want to have a favorable first impression, and the goal is to have a lasting one. So if things like “thinking before you speak” have never been your forte, you definitely think about it more in these “meet the parents” type situations. And so it should be when it comes to media outreach.
In order to build and maintain a good relationship with possible future in-laws/relatives, there is research, respect and eventually rapport. The same goes for media, but there’s no cookouts or any of that fun stuff. However, if things go as planned there’s the front page of the New York Times, a mention in Elle Magazine, a feature on a blog, or coverage on CNN [or insert names of any of your desired coverage outlets]. Not bad. So let’s review!
In the meet the relatives situation, you find out the cousin’s favorite flowers, what will everyone be wearing to dinner and should you bring red or white wine.
As for media, you want to always research the media outlet and person(s) whom you will be pitching. You will want to read what they have written and pay attention to their communication style on social media. Note: Don’t be freaky stalker-ish, be normal and take a genuine interest. The internet makes it so easy when it comes to research, but thanks to the internet, it’s also challenging because there’s no privacy! It’s important to stick to the professional nature of your outreach. Your goal is not to be the BFF who then is going to ask for the out-of-nowhere favor. Your research focus is to take an interest in their craft, the stories they’re sharing with their audience and to be of service to them. This will also ensure that you are pitching to the right person and that it’s the right fit for your brand.
Always be respectful when reaching out to media, of their time and expertise. Taking your time to craft your pitches and the tone of your e-mails really does matter. It’s so easy just to fire off an e-mail nowadays, but well-written and concise pitches can get the job done and result in coverage. And when the media responds for more info, be respectful of their time and the fact that they may be on deadline.
Also, don’t be afraid to show some personality in your pitches – be yourself! When you’re not sure how something may be perceived though – stick to keeping it professional. The worst thing that can happen is that they will find you…professional. Nothing wrong with that.
And when you decide to follow-up, be sensitive with your follow-up language. You follow-up because sometimes your e-mail may have gotten overlooked or ended up in the spam folder inadvertently. Whatever you do, don’t be defensive or offended regarding the lack of response. There have been plenty of times that we’ve received “thank yous” for the follow-up and apologies for missed e-mails. As you look to establish long-term relationships with the media, remember first that they are people, who have a job to do and occasionally miss an e-mail (or few). A lack of response may also mean it’s not a good fit, so use discretion.
(In the meet the relatives situation, we probably don’t need to share all the reasons respect is important, right? Especially if you plan on sticking around in the relationship for the long haul.)
This is built over time – whether it’s with your future in-laws or the media. There are millions upon millions of media outlets available to pitch in today’s day and age, with even more people under them. You will not build a BFF relationship with everyone, but you can build solid relationships with the contacts you make and keep over time. Media professionals move around or hone their skills at various outlets, so your contact may open doors to new opportunities or introduce you to other editors, writers, etc. who may be interested in your story.
Also, please note that you will recycle the research and respect aspects over and over and over again. There will be some media that you reach out to on a regular basis and others you check in with once every few months. It will all depend on what’s happening in your business and available story angles.
When looking to build a relationship focus on research and respect, and ultimately, building rapport over time. These things help to make a positive first impression, and when done correctly, a lasting impression that can result in coverage!
How do you build a relationship and establish rapport with the media? Share in the comments below!