Media relations is a crucial component of every PR program. Successfully pitching stories to journalists and securing coverage requires that your organization maintain good relationships with media contacts. With the media experiencing a record number of job cuts so far in 2023, reporters and editors are increasingly moving from one publication to the next. With an ever-changing media landscape, how can your organization build and maintain enduring relationships with media contacts? We’re sharing five ways to navigate changing media outlets below. Let’s dive in.
1. Maintain relationships with individual journalists.
Today’s evolving media landscape constantly forces reporters to cover new beats or juggle additional assignments. As a result, media lists are in a constant state of flux. Instead of stressing about starting your PR program over from scratch, use this as an opportunity to build new relationships with media contacts.
The best way to maintain these new relationships is to do the necessary legwork upfront. Journalists remember the people who send them relevant content and are generally more likely to cover your news or story when they do.
I think our best bet is to tie the changing media environment back to the root cause – consolidation and layoffs. Job hopping is a byproduct but it’s the larger trend causing this outcome. I saw this Axios article yesterday that reminded me of this but it appears their site is currently down. Let’s test the link to make sure it works before publishing.
2. Be responsive.
If you are not responsive to the journalist you’re pitching, you may lose the opportunity (regardless of how good the story is). All the work of drafting and sending out your perfectly crafted pitch will have been for not. Worse, it might be a mistake the journalist is unwilling to overlook, which could prevent your organization from securing future opportunities.
The journalist you’re pitching must often work against competing deadlines and multiple stories. Their time is valuable, so respond with the pertinent information, ask what deadlines must be adhered to, and confirm any exclusivity requests. This information is crucial for busy reporters (remember: they’re inundated with dozens, sometimes even hundreds of pitches each day) and lets your team know how to prioritize responding accordingly.
3. Stay aware of movement.
As you compile your media list, ensure that each target works at the publication under which they are listed. As a rule, review your media lists every three months to keep them current. After you’ve made any adjustments, identify the most appropriate target for each publication. It often varies depending on the type of outlet—for instance, at many trade publications your target may be the editor-in-chief vs. a specific journalist who covers your topic at The New York Times. This brings me to my next point…
4. Acknowledge any pre-existing relationship.
A solid media relations program takes time and effort, so don’t throw that out the window by cold-pitching a journalist you already have a rapport at their new publication. In your first outreach reference that you have previously worked together. Even something as simple as “Congratulations on your new position! As you may recall, we worked together on that story about [insert subject and link to article] at [insert publication] and look forward to working with you in your new role,” or “I see you have moved to a new publication, I have a story you might be interested in.” Acknowledge their move and remind them that you provide relevant story ideas and are responsive while adding the personal touch to show that they aren’t just another contact on your media list.
5. Note your relationship with a previous journalist when pitching a new contact at the old outlet.
Now that your contact has moved on, it’s time to find a new one. Who at that publication went on to take the previous journalist’s place? Once you identify the new contact, reference your prior relationship in your initial pitch. Something like, “I used to work with [insert name] and was hoping to introduce myself to you and continue a relationship with your publication going forward” can be simple and effective. Once you’ve established the new relationship, repeat steps two and three listed above.
Navigating the ever-changing media landscape can sometimes feel like a losing battle, but mastering these tips will have you feeling victorious in managing your media relations program. Need more help? Let’s chat.