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Four steps to building relationships with journalists


Much like you would with potential customers, building relationships with journalists is the best way to achieve positive media attention.

We’ve all dealt with telemarketers, but did you end up buying from them? It’s doubtful. The reason is simple, you don’t know them or their product. The telemarketer hasn’t built rapport with you, in turn, you hang up. Had you known the caller, you would have at least listened.

Apply this same logical to journalists. Daily, journalists are hounded by countless faceless people wanting coverage. With looming deadlines and a cranky editor, your media release won’t be read. Why? Journalists don’t know you and don’t have time to find out. To them, you’re flogging something entirely for your gain.

Correcting this process and putting you front-of-mind for potential media coverage is easy.

Four steps to building relationships with journalists

Narrow the market

Identify, through research, journalists that report on your area of business or expertise and focus on them. Don’t send an export business media release to a crime reporter. A relevant contact book is better than a vast one. When you have a list of related journalists, get their contact information. Publications, websites, TV and radio stations all have this readily available.

Engage journalists

Get in contact but don’t ask journalists to report on you right way, instead engage them in conversation about a story they’ve produced that you found interesting (make sure you can recite a story by them, to them – heading, date and crux of the story). After a causal chat invite them out for a coffee (it’s like dating) and remember it’s your shout. It’s also a great idea to engage them on social media too – but don’t be a stalker.

Meet with a plan

Don’t start with the line “how about this weather”. First impressions count and journalists are time-poor. After formalities knuckle down and start talking shop (journalists know why you’re there). Never directly spruik what you do but talk to its usefulness. Remember, you’re having coffee with journalists who report on areas you’re involved in, they’re interested in what you’re saying. Don’t ask for coverage, be smart – make it seem like you’re doing journalists a favour by keeping them alerted to developments in your mutual area of interest. Keep the relationship alive, this coffee is not a one off thing.

Send a Media Release

Journalists receive many media releases per day, most won’t be read – it’s another faceless email. After your previous hard work in building a relationship journalists will recognise you when your email arrives. Because journalists can verify you and claim knowledge about you, there’s a decent chance you’ll find yourself the focus of a story. Again, make sure in a media release you sell the narrative to the audience (benefits) rather than the brand, service or product itself – that’s self-indulgent and has limited impact.

At this point, you may not be in a position to seek media attention, but strike now and build relationships. When the time is right, you’ll have runs-on-the-board.

About the author:

Luke_BuesnelLuke Buesnel is an experienced journalist and political media advisor with an interest in small business issues and trends. Luke is the Founder and Director of Real Media Management. Twitter – @RMM_Luke