How to Connect with the Media Before You Even Pitch a Story
Let’s say you’re going to a party, and you know someone will be there who you hope to meet and work with in the future. Would you introduce yourself by walking up to them and immediately start spouting off your resume and accomplishments? Probably not. Instead, you would get to know the other person with friendly conversation and look for areas of common ground to show how your expertise can benefit them personally. After, you might share your business card or find another way to connect again in the future. Over time, this can lead to a friendly and fruitful relationship for both of you.
We make introductions this way because, no matter our goals, working with people means building relationships. This also holds true when working with journalists.
Just as networking is a two-way street, the same goes for working with reporters. Even if you don’t have a story to pitch yet, or don’t feel ready to offer yourself as a source, you can still take steps to build a positive relationship with reporters in your niche. Later, when you’re ready to pitch, it will pay off tenfold.
Here are three ways you can start building relationships with reporters today:
Building strong relationships with journalists starts with understanding where your expertise can bring value. Start by researching media outlets and their reporters, and develop a media list of local, regional and national reporters.
These might be outlets and reporters who cover careers and workplace topics, human resources, lifestyle, or other topics where your expert advice can offer insight. Taking a look at past articles and social media activity can be a quick way to identify the correct reporters.
Remember not to ignore niche media outlets, which can be just as influential for connecting to your target audience.
2) Make the Introduction
Once you’ve lined up your media targets, all you have to do is send a quick email, and presto—you’re getting your five minutes of fame, right? Guess again. Reporters’ inboxes are constantly flooded with dozens of pitches, including many that are off topic.
A better option would to be to reach out before you’re asking for coverage, without an agenda. Pay attention to the reporter’s latest articles, and when you find something you like, send a short but sincere note that lets them know how much you enjoyed it. Even something as simple as, “Hey Adam, I loved your story on preparing for Gen Z in the workplace. I passed it along to my network of managers and HR professionals that I coach” should work.
Journalists—who are stretched thin—will always appreciate a note of gratitude. In fact, they’ll often respond! Journalists can quickly detect an unsolicited pitch, but if they reply to your positive comment, it’s a good opportunity to share a sentence or two about your expertise and let them know you’re available if they ever need someone on coaching topics.
3) What You Say
The outreach in step 2 may nor may not earn you interview opportunities on its own, but either way, you’re fostering a positive relationship with the reporter with each touchpoint. When the time comes that you do have a pitch to share, the journalist will already have a sense of who you are and is likely to recognize your name in their inbox. This can go a long way toward earning coverage!
An Investment in Future Opportunities
It might seem daunting to start introducing yourself to members of the media, but this approach to friendly relationship building is a low-pressure way to get yourself started. Even better, as you build relationships with reporters, your familiarity with them is likely to make them seem less intimidating, which will help you be calm and professional when you earn an interview.