With no connections in the media landscape when I relocated to the Philippines, I was initially skeptical and under-confident about my abilities in this new and unfamiliar market.
However, through weeks of persistent outreach via LinkedIn messages and emails, I began to receive responses. This marked the moment of truth: the test of whether I could effectively engage in conversations and pitch relevant stories to senior media professionals.
Back to Basics
If you’ve been working in media relations for a long time in a familiar market, you eventually become a pro at finding out what pitch will work for whom. However, when starting in a new market, you might have to return to the basics. I believe in being a student for life, which means acknowledging that I don’t know everything and that there’s much to learn from everyone we meet. This humility often helps in breaking the ice and striking engaging conversation.
It is essential to go beyond merely researching the journalists themselves. Instead, delve into their work: the topics they cover, the stories they break and their writing styles. This level of understanding provides valuable insights into the individuals you will meet.
Become a voracious reader of their work, exploring their recent articles, best pieces, most shared stories, and even their pinned articles on platforms like LinkedIn. Comprehensive research is your preparation for success.
It's About Them, Not You
A learning that stays relevant irrespective of the market is that a newsworthy pitch will find coverage wherever you are. However, it is crucial to remember that while you may believe your pitch and angle are exceptional, it is never about you.
Your research will reveal what constitutes news for journalists, and you must find newsworthy and relevant angles tailored to their interests. If your pitch lacks newsworthiness, it simply won't resonate.
Building Relationships Takes Time
While on your home territory, you might have established friendships with beat journalists and often a phone call would get you access, a new geography demands that you start from scratch with realistic expectations.
You will have to approach meetings with journalists as opportunities for relationship-building rather than expecting immediate results. Take the time to get to know them as individuals, pitch story ideas, and listen to their feedback. It is a collaborative process that requires mutual respect. Treat it as such, understanding that the results may not be instantaneous, but the foundation of a strong relationship is being laid.
Genuine Interest and Appreciative Enquiry
Embracing a genuine interest in the culture, cuisine and history of your new country can go a long way in establishing rapport. Engage in conversations that demonstrate your curiosity, actively listen, and ask thoughtful questions. You can foster meaningful connections that transcend professional interactions by showing appreciation for their expertise and perspectives.
Respect their Time and Follow Up Appropriately
While being proactive is important, avoid excessive messaging or chasing journalists for a response. Respect their time and follow up in a reasonable and professional manner.
Learn to recognize when a pitch may not align with their interests and graciously accept it. Remember, in the future, you may come across a story they will find intriguing. It's a small world, and being open and respectful can lead to future opportunities.
Establishing media relations in a foreign market requires persistence, research, genuine interest, and a collaborative mindset. Of course, I’d have been more confident had I been in my home country, but I eventually realized that the basics remain the same irrespective of the market.
The biggest learning is that by building relationships and offering newsworthy angles, you can navigate unfamiliar territories and succeed in your media outreach efforts.
Karnika Bahuguna is Associate Director, Communications at Dyninno India.