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Photo Credit: Aidan Jones via Compfight cc

By Megan Bauer
The Hoffman Agency, Portland-Vancouver

The idea of media relations is no foreign concept in the world of PR. However, the art of building true relationships is a bit harder.

It all comes down to this: editors, reporters and bloggers are real people. They have families, friends and lives. I think that sometimes PR professionals think about media in the same way they would react to seeing their high school teacher at the grocery store: “Wait, they have a life outside of the school?”

Of course, there is the matter of professionalism involved in building these relationships—but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a bit of fun along the way. Here are three steps I’ve learned that work well for building strong relationships with the media (caution: may produce results):

  1. Initiate contact: Of course, this sounds like the easiest part. My client has an announcement, so I’ll just use the pitch our team built and shoot out a quick email to all my contacts… No. One of the most important concepts when pitching new contacts is tailoring the announcement to their interests and writing. While it is time consuming, it is well worth your time in comparison to sending out a ton of meaningless emails. Take the time to find out what your contact has been writing about the last few months and explain why you think the announcement or news would be of interest to them. 
     
  2. Build personal ties: Once you’ve passed the phase of working on a story together or are in the middle of developing content, try to be a bit more casual. Of course, it’s important to not cross the line of professionalism. I tend to think of conversations with the media much like they would be at a networking event. There are certain questions that you wouldn’t ask, but you also wouldn’t just sit there and talk about the same work project the whole time.

    What’s key here is to feel out how your contact is communicating with you. There are certain media contacts that I’ve asked if they have anything fun planned for the weekend, while others I’ll just ask them what other cool projects they are working on.

  3. Sustain the relationship: This can actually be the hardest concept. After you’ve built the relationship and are done with the story, it’s really easy to forget about your contacts and move on—do not do this! You never know when you will want to utilize that relationship again. Whether it’s to have them write another story or to connect with someone else from their publication. Media relationships are valuable for life, not just one story.

At the end of the day, it’s really about committing to understanding what each person needs and fulfilling those need with your news. Also keeping it professional, but not being robotic. Truth be told, the best advice is to be your genuine self. 

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