The Basics of Healthy, Happy Relationships

Dec 18, 2019

Building relationships with journalists takes time. Smashing them to pieces takes little time at all.

One terrible, irrelevant pitch and you could end up on a journalist’s blacklist and that isn’t where you want to be. Because as any good media relations guru will tell you, we need journalists more than they need us.

To build strong relationships and maybe fix bad ones there are some basic rules of the road anyone out there sending pitches should follow, lest you end up in the SPAM folder where email goes to die!

Know What they Write and What Who they Write for Writes

Sometimes a good tongue-twister helps you to remember a basic principle such as this one do a little research! You need to know who the person and the publication is before you pitch him/her.

This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s actually one of the biggest problems editors run into. If they won’t accept company sources for stories and prefer to limit
themselves to end-users and customers, you need to know that. And, more importantly, you need to respect that.

No, you cannot change their mind. Instead, because you failed to know who you’re dealing with and respect their rules, you’ll just end up alienating yourself.

Give publications a call before you pitch them. Or, do what I do, drop a quick email with the subject like “Quick Question” and just ask what it’ll take to get a
story covered. And then take the response as a Commandment. It’s as simple as that.

Use the Medium of their Choice

Media relations people are told all the time “you have to make the calls!” Well, that’s true sometimes. And sometimes, it’s not true at all.

The fact is if it’s a solicitation or a pitch editors prefer email almost universally. That said, a quick phone call to remind them you sent one is probably OK for most editors. Don’t, however, overstay your welcome. Keep calls brief. And if an editor tells you they prefer email, keep to that avenue.

I have been yelled at on the phone once or twice for calling someone I shouldn’t have. My advice to avoid this is to 1) check your PR software, such as Cision, and read the notes to see if a journalist explicitly states that they prefer email; and 2) try to limit your calls to work numbers.

Just because you can get a journalist’s personal cellphone doesn’t mean you should call them on the same line. Like everyone else, they use their phones primarily to like baby photos on Facebook and to swipe left on Tinder mirror selfies. They probably don’t want a call on their personal line so don’t do it.

Don’t sound like Rachel From Cardholder Services during phone calls, and don’t make your emails look like marketing blasts. Talk and write to editors as if they are real people and as if you’re a real person (I failed to develop a good tongue-twister, but I tried).

Keep it Real

Keep it real. If you’re writing an email, keep it brief and just offer a story. Don’t drone on and on about a product and how great it is no one cares. And if you’re calling an editor, don’t jump into a monologue, because no one will listen.

Just try to have a conversation, weave in the most important information, and be yourself. If you don’t fall back on your personality, you shouldn’t be in media

People skills are a huge part of the job, and good people skills shine most when those people are being themselves.