When it comes to working with the media, relationships triumph over everything else.

Whether you’re proactively looking to raise your profile or you’re in defensive damage limitation mode trying to keep something OUT of the media, who you know and what they think of you goes a long way.

I meet a lot of PR professionals who end up frustrated when they don’t get the results they want from media engagement. Many of them set about trying to achieve that engagement by using one of several well known ‘media database’ solutions.

Some of them are good and certainly have their place but they are not the be all and end all. I prefer to see them as a starting point. Get some intelligence about the media professional you want to deal with. Find their name, where they work, examples of previous work, their social media accounts. Their up to date, direct contact details. And then use that information to make a tailored, intelligence driven approach to them.

If all you do is fire out press releases through the system to 100 names at a time, then you are not building relationships. You’re spamming. And it should be no surprise when the journalists on the receiving end treat you the way spammers deserve to be treated.

There’s no excuse in this day and age for making a ‘cold call’ in any situation. Almost every journalist in the world has some sort of presence on social media – particularly on Twitter. So at the very least, follow them there, before you send a press release to a distribution list. They may well immediately follow you back, when they realise who you are and the value you can bring. If they do, you likely would then have the ability to send them a Direct Message, where you could summarise the contents of your press release. That’s far more effective than blasting it out and taking your chances.

This isn’t an attack on the media contacts databases. They can be useful. But only if you treat them as a starting point and do good old fashioned relationship building work on top. The majority of people in this profession of ours hide behind the phone, email and databases. Anything you can do to make yourself stand out goes a long way.

There are no shortcuts. Try this: write a list of 3 journalists your organisation would benefit from a better relationship with. Now make it your mission to them face to face at least once in the next 6 months.

Categories: Media Training