Networking like a Pro: Three Ways to Build Better Media Relationships

Building media relationships in PR
A recent PRSA event provided great tips about building relationships with reporters via social media.

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What does networking really mean, in today’s technology oriented-world? The old days of the Rolodex are gone, so effective networking requires an understanding of the latest tools at our disposal – especially social media platforms.

We recently attended the Public Relations Society of America’s National Capital Chapter event, “Networking 3.0: Building Communications Relationships, Creating Opportunities, and Balancing Privacy,” at which an expert panel shared recommendations about how PR professionals can best leverage their social networks to develop relationships and tell clients’ stories. The panelists were Paige Lavender, senior politics editor at the Huffington Post; Anthony Shop, chief strategy officer and co-founder of Social Driver; and Matt Bennett, senior vice president and D.C. practice lead at Racepoint Global.

Here are some key takeaways from the discussion on building media relationships:

The More Customized the Pitch, the Better. When crafting a pitch, personalization is key. A generic pitch blasted out to multiple reporters will probably get deleted immediately. Reporters may even put you on their “blacklist” after receiving one. Instead of sending out mass pitches, do a little research. FInd out which reporter at a publication best fits your story. Then, customize your pitch for that reporter, while including relevant statistical data to support the pitch with useful, quantified context.

So how do you “research” reporters? By reading their past articles to examine their writing style and subjects of interest, as well as checking out their Twitter page. Twitter allows you to get a sense of their interests outside of work, like their favorite sports teams or musical groups. But respect boundaries. Tweets and articles are fair game, but don’t reference specific personal details with contacts unless you have a pre-existing relationship with them.

Social Media Isn’t Created Equal. In our rush to embrace new social media platforms, we may not gain the in-depth knowledge needed to use them effectively. Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook serve different purposes. PR professionals can take advantage of them to reach different audiences or pursue different relationships.

For example, sending a LinkedIn request to a journalist you meet at a networking event helps solidify the connection, while sending them a Facebook request is probably too informal. If you want to directly engage with reporters through their work, share their articles on Twitter – not just retweeting or liking them, but responding to them with thoughtful commentary.

“Build a Net.” Develop social relationships by establishing your value. You may, for instance, post an article or industry report that delivers timely, insightful information to your reporter connections. As recommended during the event, you have to “Build the net before you’re on the trapeze.” If you wait to network until you need help on a specific project, the connections you seek won’t exist because you haven’t cultivated them and/or demonstrated that you’ve contributed to their interests/informational needs.

You can’t often plan PR “wins.” But by incorporating these recommendations while investing in relationship-building with reporters, you can better position your client for success. At our high-tech PR firm, we’re constantly seeking new ways to align best practices with the latest in social media/new tech to promote our clients as top Thought Leaders in their industry. If this sounds like something you’d like to discuss, then please contact us.

Carly Buchanan is a senior account coordinator for W2 Communications.