How to Build Better Media Relationships as a PR Pro

Nov 01, 2021

As PR pros, our relationships with the media (and especially journalists) are ESSENTIAL. But knowing how to build those incredible media relationships can feel overwhelming!

Genuine relationships take effort to build….but they’re so worth it. If you want to be seen as an expert in your niche, have amazing relationships to leverage for your clients, and start seeing amazing results as a PR pro, media relationships are so important. 

So how do you actually go about building those key relationships? 

Why Is It Important To Focus On Building Media Relationships? 

No matter what stage of your PR journey you are at, media relationships are foundational and SO important. And regardless of what changes happen in the landscape of PR over the next few years, media relationships will remain one of the most important things we need to develop as publicists. 

In this post, I’m sharing four big-picture strategies and LOTS of helpful tips to help you build genuine relationships with journalists. 

And honestly? These tips are going to help you whether you’re a long-time PR pro or you’re just getting started! 

For my seasoned pros, consider this a super-quick refresher...and a friendly reminder to start doing this again—you can ALWAYS build your relationships! And for any brand-new, just starting out publicists, I want to remind you that I started my own PR firm with NO contacts whatsoever, so I know you can do this.

How To Build Awesome Media Relationships As A PR Professional

Finding success in PR really does start with building genuine media relationships—so let’s talk about how to do it!

Start Focusing On Relationships Before You Formally Pitch Yourself

My first tip is to start building relationships before you formally pitch or introduce yourself! Relationships take time to build—especially when you’re going to be sending them pitches. 

Do you expect a good friend to invite to dinner someone that you personally think is great, but they’ve never met themselves? Maybe there’s room at the table, but it’s also likely that the host wants to meet the other person first, before committing to something greater.

As a PR pro, you need to spend time engaging with the media so you’re on their radar well before you want to be in their stories. 

Engage with their Tweets if you have some value to add—and only if you have value to add. Replying to their Tweets with "great piece," or "Well written article. I'd love to speak to you about (shamelessly add your client here)," is not going to cut it. 

Instead, spend time reading their articles and get to know what they like and don't like. Favorite, Retweet, and reply to their Tweets (don't overdo it) if you truly have something to say that's of value. 

This tip doesn’t just go for Twitter. Do they have a blog? Follow it, and make sure to comment on their writing. This will not only help them recognize your name, but it shows you're genuinely interested in their work.

Related: How to Improve Your Media Pitches to Get More PR Features

Strive To Make Real Connections—Don’t Just Self-Promote

Try to make REAL connections (rather than just self-promoting). I recommend inviting the journalist to coffee (or virtual coffee via Zoom). To host a virtual meet and greet, send out Starbucks gift cards and invite people to come chat.

This is meaningful and lets you really build genuine relationships. It’s also much more engaging than just landing in someone’s inbox and asking for something!

During these types of meetings, you can ask questions, like: 

  • What are you working on? 
  • How can I be of value to you? 
  • Is there anything I can do to make your job easier?

Your goal in building relationships with your media contacts should always be to be as helpful as possible. 

We have an entire masterclass on how to effectively host virtual desksides in The Pitch Lab!

Do Your Research!

It’s super frustrating for any journalist to receive pitches that have nothing to do with them or their job. 

And honestly? This can land you on “blocked” lists!

Before you send a pitch or reach out to a journalist to start building media relationships, you need to dig deep and do some research to learn more about them, the types of stories they cover, and their audience. 

Then ask yourself, “Would they care about this?” If the answer is no, move on.

Again, make sure you’re actually reading what that journalist writes and that you know who their audience is! 

Remember: Journalists Are People

Lots of PR pros see journalists as public servants who are there to feature clients. That’s not the case—emailing a press release is not the equivalent of an ad buy.

They’re Busy (and Need Time To Evaluate Pitches)

Media professionals don’t just sit around waiting for pitches and press releases! Your pitches need to be truly newsworthy...and they need to stand out among a sea of pitches they’re receiving every day. 

Don’t follow up too quickly or be obnoxious in the way you follow up. Just like PR pros, journalists have lives outside of work, and when it comes to work itself, media professionals have a LOT going on. 

They also need time to digest your story idea, and often, run it by their editors for approval. This takes time, so pitching a story on Friday and hoping for coverage, let alone a response, to materialize the following Wednesday, can be a bit unrealistic. 

This is a huge part of why you need to be strategic about who you pitch and when! 

Related: What Should You Do After a PR Rejection?

You Need To Focus On Improving Your Pitching Skills

Improving your pitching skills is actually a great way to build better relationships with your media contacts. If your pitches are genuinely helpful, your contacts will trust you and appreciate your work! 

And if you need to build your pitching skills and become a Pitching Powerhouse, the best thing to do is join The Pitch Lab! Inside The Pitch Lab, we not only go over everything you need to know to craft impeccable pitches… but you also get access to insanely good monthly Execution Plans and tons of resources (and masterclasses!). We even held a masterclass with the amazing Cheryl Robinson where we dove into “Pitching to Top-Tier Business Publications.”

Click here to learn more about The Pitch Lab! >> 

Show Appreciation In Order To Build Genuine Media Relationships

Oh, and don’t forget to show your appreciation after you’ve secured a feature! Just because you got what you wanted doesn’t mean the relationship ends there. Continue to focus on building your long-term relationship with that journalist. Share their work and praise them publicly to make sure that you’re truly building a mutually beneficial relationship that the journalist will value, too. 

Keep engaging long after the feature has been released, too! Don’t let your media relationships fizzle out or seem one-sided. Make sure to check back in and continue to engage with them.

Building media relationships is absolutely essential for every PR professional, both beginners and seasoned. These tips will help you start building more genuine, steadfast relationships with media professionals right now!