Whether you’re a seasoned vet, or a new graduate looking to launch your career in public relations, building and maintaining relationships across the media landscape will always be a key element of your work. As a new PR professional interviewing with prospective employers, you may have already been asked to present your own personal media contact list, which in turn may have induced a bit of panic. You likely thought to yourself, “how can I possibly have a media contact list if I haven’t even worked in a public relations position yet?!” Well, don’t fret my pet, we’ve got you covered!
Here’s a list of ways to start building those relationships yesterday ~
1. Follow, read, share and engage with your favorite journalists and reporters online
Just like anyone else, journalists have to cut through a lot of noise to make their work stand out. You can help their work reach new audiences and get the recognition it deserves by reading, sharing and even commenting on their work. Support them, and applaud them for a job well done - simply give kudos where kudos are due. You can give feedback on what you liked about their story, what you found thought-provoking, or what you might want to know more about. The more intriguing your comments are, the better, as they are more likely to remember you and respond. This is the beginning of a beautiful (mutually beneficial) relationship!
2. Interact on social media
As a PR professional, social media can be a key resource for finding and nurturing new media relationships, while strengthening existing ones. Twitter has become a place where journalists’ personal and professional lives mix. They are just as likely to share memes and vacation photos as they are to inform followers of upcoming projects and gather information for stories. And by the way, you should be using your social media accounts this way too. A successful public relations professional knows that social media isn’t just social, it’s a great business tool!
Your best move is to follow your contacts on social media, send them messages if/when appropriate, ask questions, interact without being creepy and answer any inquiries they might have. It’s important to note that comments and tweets should be respectfully informal and always genuine. At the end of the day, journalists are humans too. They want real friends, not just work buddies.
If you’ve been building for a while, now you’ve got to maintain..
1. It’s not a job, it’s a relationship. Treat it as such.
Like any other relationship in life, the professional relationships you develop with media contacts will also require a little TLC. Consistency, time and patience will go a long way. For instance, leaving emails on ice for too long is not how you want to treat your new friend. Ghosting a contact, or forgetting to respond altogether, can easily come across as being uninterested or unprofessional, and might send the message that this conversation is simply not a priority.
Of course, there will be times when you’ve truly been swamped, so just try to check in before you leave the office for the day. At the same time, there’s no need to take it personally if you don’t hear back as well - these relationships take time. So don’t get discouraged if it takes weeks or months to build a strong rapport.
2. Don’t forget your manners!
Saying “thank you” is always a must. A hectic schedule doesn’t excuse forgetting to let your contacts know you appreciate them, and the work they do. When they publish your story, you should share and tweet, not only for business purposes, but as a way to say thanks by sharing their work with your network. For special features or projects, a hand-written thank you note can go a long way, while also adding a personal touch to this relationship. You might even be ready to take your relationship to the next level by asking them out for coffee or happy hour!
At the end of the day, your relationship should never be needy. Whether you have something to pitch or not, make sure to check in once a month, as a friend - see how they’re doing or ask what they’re working on out of curiosity. And if you see something online that matches their beat, personal or professional, maybe shoot it their way with a note saying, “this made me think of you - hope you’re doing well!” - just as you would a friend.
If you’re finding it difficult to network with professionals in the PR world, or even just in general, you should check out our blog on How to Network Authentically.