Five tips for building relationships with the media
Picture this: your nonprofit’s event is coming up in a few weeks. You’ve gathered all the details and crafted the perfect media pitch. But this time, you want to send it to a new radio station in the area and a trade publication you’ve never worked with before. What do you do? How do you begin to build a relationship with them? The answer – follow many of the same practices as you would in any relationship.
Here are a few tips to get you started building relationships with the media:
1. Be realistic
We all know that having unrealistic expectations in a relationship can lead to trouble. So make sure that you think realistically when it comes to your relationships with the media.
It’s important to stay positive, but don’t expect media coverage every time you send a pitch. And try not to be upset when you don’t receive coverage. It’s not always up to the reporter to choose what makes it to the blog, publication, or broadcast. There are many behind-the-scenes factors that determine which stories get covered. For example, if there is breaking news on the same day you’re expecting coverage, the breaking news will likely take precedence.
On another note, be realistic with the pitches you’re sending. If it’s not newsworthy, chances are it won’t be covered. Be sure to familiarize yourself with a quality media pitch.
2. Meet face-to-face
In a world of online dating and networking, there’s something to be said about meeting in person. This applies to the media, too. You should make the effort to meet face-to-face.
If it’s reasonable, stop by their office to drop off information or photos. Even if the person you were hoping to meet isn’t available, they will know you made the effort. Even better? Schedule a short meeting at their convenience. But be sure to prepare for the meeting, almost as if you were preparing for a first date.
If you’re receiving coverage during your nonprofit’s event, make yourself visible. Take time to introduce yourself to the reporter covering the event. It’s important that they know your face, which can increase your chances of being remembered and can help foster a good relationship.
3. Make it easy for them
It’s no surprise that relationships take work. It’s usually expected that each party put forth the same amount of effort in order for a relationship to succeed. But when it comes to the media, most of the work should be on your end.
When you send a pitch, never assume your contact already knows everything they need to know. Include all of your pertinent contact information so they don’t have to track you down. Check the editorial policies and guidelines of the media outlet ahead of time and follow them. Unless the guidelines specify otherwise, always be sure that the information you provide can be copied and pasted.
These tactics may seem obvious, but are too often forgotten. Anything you can do to save the media time, energy, and effort will only help you. They will appreciate your efforts and see that you’re easy to work with, which will help build your relationship.
4. Trust them
You just went on a first date. You think it went well, but now it’s been three days and you haven’t heard from the other person. What should you do? Should you call? How long should you wait? Should you just trust that they’ll contact you?
These same post-date jitters will apply to your media relationships. You’ve just sent a pitch to a new media contact and you haven’t heard from them. What do you do?
Things happen, and sometimes your contact may not have seen or received your (excellently prepared, newsworthy, easy to use) pitch.
It’s generally okay to follow-up with a phone call or an email, but only do so one or two times.
Trust that your contact will get back to you if they have an interest; consider the possibility that your story is not what they’re looking for and they likely don’t have time to respond to every unsuccessful pitch.
If you are constantly checking in, you run the risk of being seen as a nag and harming the relationship or even worse, preventing it from growing.
5. Use Your Network
If you have a friend, family member, or contact who works for your target media outlet, it’s OK to ask for their help making a connection. The media is all about connections. It can be extremely beneficial to have someone put in a good word for you or let their coworker know to expect your call or email. Media personnel are inundated with communications from people they don’t know every day, so even the smallest connection can help you start to build a relationship.
The next time you work with the media, try putting these tips into practice. The sooner you start treating your relationship with the media like any other relationship, the better luck you’ll have. Remember that the person behind the notebook, camera, or computer is human, too, and will appreciate your efforts and actions.
What tips can you share for building and nurturing relationships with the media?