Build a Relationship First, Then Pitch Your Story

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Building a mutually beneficial relationship with journalists is arguably the biggest challenge for a PR professional. In a perfect world, emailing a pitch about your business should be enough to connect with a journalist. Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world. In the real world, where we live, journalists are busy and their inboxes are probably always inundated with pitches. So how do PR pros ensure that they make the cut and grab the attention of journalists?

Here are tips that will help.

1. Start Following Journalists on Social Media

When it comes to pitching, it's best to hold off until you've got a relationship with the journalist. How do you begin a relationship with a journalist? Social media platforms offer the best opportunity. In fact, an increasing number of journalists are using social media platforms to find potential sources and promote their stories. More than 80% of journalists used social media platforms for publishing and promotion, while more than 62% used them for sourcing, according to Statista. So, instead of wasting your time on emailing lengthy pitches, which you should never do, by the way, focus on starting a conversation on a social media platform such as Twitter or LinkedIn.

Journalists make up 24.6% of verified accounts on Twitter and their number is growing. So, using Twitter lists to keep track of recent posts published by the journalists that are in line with your interests is probably a great start. On the other hand, you can also connect with them on other social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Instagram, and even Facebook and leverage your personal relationships on these platforms to pitch your stories.

2. Share and Respond to the Journalist’s Writing

OK, so you’re following journalists who are relevant to your company and industry sector. What do you after that? One way to start building a relationship with journalists is to share and respond to the articles they write.

Refrain, however, from commenting on every article they publish. Instead, focus on the writing related to your industry and brand. Also, reach out even when you are not pitching, perhaps especially then. Reporters tend to remember PR pros who reach out with interesting tidbits, an idea or a source even when it doesn't directly benefit them.

Make a list of local journalists in your sector and their publications and research their writing before following up. Being informed will not only get the journalists’ attention quickly but also establish you as a reliable resource.

Instead of pitching your story directly, focus on first developing a personal relationship with a few key journalists. The end goal of this process is to pique their interest in your company or client. Avoid mentioning anything about your product or service until the reporters ask you what you do.

You can use a variety of tools such as Google Alerts, LinkedIn Pulse or RSS feeds to find out the latest articles and blog posts of journalists you’ve chosen to follow.

3. Use Quora to Find Local Reporters and Publications

Quora is a question-and-answer website that is popular with some media pros, including journalists and PR execs. In fact, it is the best way to establish you as a reliable source among local journalists.

To gain exposure, participate in a relevant discussion by answering, commenting, and sharing your opinion or an interesting fact related to the topic. If you’re logical and consistent, soon you will receive instant publicity among the targeted audience, increasing your chances that journalists will notice you.

4. Learn How to Present Information

Though good journalists always are hunting for a story, they hardly have time to leaf through dozens of pages looking for relevant information. If you present information in a format that journalists can use, they are more likely to use it with minimal editing. In fact, the less editing the information in your pitch requires, the better chances it has of getting published.

Keep the following in mind when composing your pitch:

  • Keep it simple and to-the-point. Make sure to include only useful and relevant information.
  • Present information from the journalist's point of view.
  • Give it a punchy title and use it in the subject line of your email as well. The is how you get your foot in the door, so make it as attractive as possible.
  • Support your information with facts and statistics.

Conclusion

It’s not a secret that journalists are super-busy and their inboxes are overflowing with pitches. So, PR pros have to search for innovative ideas to get their attention. From following journalists on social media to meeting them in person, there are ways to start building a long-term relationship. Once you do, however, you will also need to present material to them that is clear and concise.

Pratik Dholakiya is co-founder and CMO of E2M