How to Build Media Relationships

NBC 5 News

There’s a secret to connecting with the media to promote your business: The media, much like soylent green, is people.

This means if you want to build a list of contacts you can share news and story ideas with, you’ll need to build it one human at a time.

Whenever possible you want to avoid mass emails addressed to general inboxes and random journalists, because you’ll unlikely stand out from the torrent of information your recipients enjoy each day. Instead, your goal should be to establish a direct line to those specific individuals who would actually cover you, and get their attention with specific, personal messages. Here’s how.

Do some research.

Read. Watch. Listen. Google. Find the people who cover your segment of the world. Get to know their work. Look them up and find any contact info you can. Some journalists’ direct info is easy to find, but others may take some digging. Put on your detective hat and investigate.

Introduce yourself.

Once you’ve found someone promising, don’t just hit them with a press release out of the blue. Make contact before you pitch. Let them know who you are and what you do. Ask them if they’d be open to hearing about your business. And be sure to ask if there are additional people in their organization you should contact, because often there will be an editor or producer who ultimately calls the shots on what gets coverage. Finally, ask everyone what their preferred method of communication is and when in the week is the best time for them to talk. The better you know how and when to reach out, the more successful you’ll be.

Be patient and persistent.

Remember that you’re dealing with extremely busy people. Brevity is king. Always give your emails a personal touch but get right to the point. If you don’t get a response right away, keep touching base at reasonable intervals until you do.

Maintain a positive attitude at all costs.

Whatever you do, always keep positive. No matter how frustrated or ignored you feel, never let any bad attitude creep in to your communications. For one thing, you never know what’s going on at the other end. They may already be planning to do a piece on you, but they’ve just been too busy to reply and let you know. Whatever the case, if you start to get pushy and rude, no one will want to talk with you. Kill them with kindness.

Customize your pitches.

When it’s time to share some news with your new contacts, give each of them a unique pitch based on their beat and interests. Make sure you’ve got a good hook, and give it some heart. Don’t sound like a robot, but don’t sound like carnival barker either. Be sincere.

Be social and keep in touch.

Whether your pitches initially result in a ton of coverage or not, you're going to want to consistently stay on your contacts' radar. Social media is perfect for unobtrusively keeping tabs. (Have no fear, we are well past the time when it may have seemed odd or too forward to friend-request or follow people you don’t know very well. And of course, if someone isn’t comfortable, they’ll simply decline your request.) Don’t go overboard trying to engage them. Just occasionally “like” something they share, or offer a thoughtful comment on something they post. Over time, your contacts will see you as an individual human too!

In closing, and in my best Charlton Heston, I offer this homage: Now, you tell everybody. Listen to me, Inc.Well readers. You've gotta tell them! The media is people!

Guy F. Wicke is the founder of Wicke International, a media relations firm dedicated to the performing arts, which has promoted events and organizations across Chicagoland and beyond. A Chicago native and a performer himself, he is passionate about bridging the gap between artists and journalists to spread the word about unique theater and help it to thrive. He makes no claims to be some kind of PR guru, just a very talented and handsome man.

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