One of the most important aspects of any PR professional’s role is establishing key relationships with the press. Journalists today are hounded on a daily, if not hourly basis by PRs looking to pitch and place a story on behalf of their clients, so, it’s important to make sure you have done your homework before picking up that phone. What, for example, makes your story so special and why should they be compelled to use it? Also, have you done your research on that specific journalist and the topics they’ve been writing about, and will your story be relevant to them?

To make the cut it’s about first having that great piece of relevant content and, secondly, having that all-important journalist relationship.

The biggest nag journalists have about PRs is the mass emailing and generic pitching that still takes place – often filling their inbox with hundreds, if not thousands of emails a day.

The best thing a PR can do is meet with a journalist face-to-face, whether popping into their offices or meeting for a coffee. In this modern, technological age, the importance of this ‘human touch’ as a way to create cut through and develop a more meaningful working relationship cannot be underestimated.

Of course, given the current climate, amid social distancing rules and a dominant work from home culture – the question is, how can PRs keep those all-important media relationships going and even establish new ones?

  • Is the face-to-face now Facetime, or Zoom? It will always be hugely important for journalists to put faces to names, and vice versa. We might not be able to meet how we used to, but arranging a virtual meeting to check in and say hello, or discuss what you or the journalist has upcoming is the next best thing. It may seem a bit strange at first to be talking about football, your favourite film or what the weekend has in store, but speaking on a human level will break down barriers and help in the long-term.
  • Office visits – if possible, it’s still worth trying to arrange a COVID-secure pre-scheduled office visit where you only take fifteen mins of the journalist’s time, either in their office or a coffee shop nearby. You can use this time to understand what the writer needs to make their work life easier, and get to know them on a more personal level. With many journalists now starting to return to the office, they may appreciate the change in scenery!
  • Staying in regular contact – regardless of whether you have a story to pitch or not, dropping a quick call once a month is going to go a long way in staying at the forefront of that journalist’s mind. And from having a general conversation, you never know what opportunities could lead from it.
  • Being as specific as you can with your pitch, now more than ever – if you’ve really got to know your journalist and their writing interests and objectives, then as a PR you can tailor your client’s content specifically for them. Giving them exclusivity on a breaking news story, or product launch, is going to go a long way for you in the future when you need to discuss the next set of content, or introduce a different client.

All journalists are looking for good, newsworthy content, now more so than ever. The best thing we can do to remain valuable and keep mutual respect is to think like a journalist and how we would want to be approached. Coronavirus may have put a short-term halt on meeting in person, but there are enough options out there to stay connected and maintain a mutually-beneficial media and PR working partnership.

David Callaghan is an Account Manager at Whistle PR which offers a range of integrated communications services including strategic consultancy, PR, social media, community engagement, internal communications and issues management. For further information, please email or contact us here.