I recently had an opportunity to reconnect with the former editor-in-chief of several magazines that I used to write for. She has gone on to do great things and now heads up a large media outlet in Canada. Every once in a while, we find that we have a reason to reach out to check in with each other. This time, I reached out to her.
I had an invitation to a fabulous wine tasting event that a client is hosting. No strings attached, no story pitches – just an invitation to spend an hour or so tasting some good wine and chatting. I think we are both looking forward to this event and the chance to catch up.
This is, in my opinion, the way to develop and maintain authentic media relationships as a PR professional. It is a two-way street and we connect with journalists on a regular basis – not just when we have a story to pitch. There are times when I will see something online (that has nothing to do with our clients) that I know would be of interest to a journalist, so I e-mail them the link. Or if they have written an article or produced a broadcast segment that resonated with me, I will shoot off a quick e-mail to say that. The key to this kind of proactive approach is that it has to be authentic or it just comes across as smarmy and sometimes creepy. (I’ve received e-mails like that – where you know the person is faking it just to get something from you – and you can clearly tell when that is happening.)
There is more to developing and maintaining a good relationship than just keeping in touch. You also have to deliver good story pitches that are relevant to the media outlet, and you have to be reliable and trustworthy. There have been times when we have had that difficult discussion with a client because they had something they wanted pitched to media and, unfortunately, from an unbiased perspective, it was just not newsworthy outside of their organization. It’s never fun to provide that feedback, but it is my job. I don’t want our clients to get a reputation for wasting the media’s time.
Our focus is always on making sure the information we provide is interesting, accurate (there is no room for errors here), timely and relevant to their readers, viewers or listeners. It’s also important, in a media relations context, to understand that if there is an issue or a crisis, these journalists aren’t going to give you a free pass. They have a job to do – and, if you have built a good relationship, there may be an opportunity to put forward information regarding the issue. No good media relations person is ever going to think their positive relationship would ever sway the journalist not to do their job.
Developing positive relationships is a part of my role – the journalists I connect with know that, just like I know that connecting with reliable communications professionals who respond quickly to their requests is a part of their job. It’s how our world works.