Navigating Media Relations: Building Authentic Relationships with Journalists (Part 4 of 6)

Navigating Media Relations: Building Authentic Relationships with Journalists (Part 4 of 6)

By Taylor Maurits, Lead Media Strategist at Wise Up PR This blog post is part three of a six-part series on “Public Relations for Startups” by Wise Up PR, an award-winning, boutique communications agency. In the previous posts, we covered everything from the basics of public relations to when is the right time to engage with an agency to crafting effective brand messaging for your startup. Now it’s time to give you a peek into one of the most important day-to-day activities of any media strategist – engaging with journalists on behalf of our clients. However, securing a spot in the limelight isn't just about pitching great stories; it's about building genuine relationships. With the state of journalism under more pressure than ever before, this has never been more true.

Understanding How It Feels to be a Journalist Right Now

Before we dive into what it means to build an authentic relationship with a member of the media, it’s important to grasp the contours of the modern media landscape. It's an industry marked by tight deadlines, constant information overload, and a fierce battle for readership. In short, journalists receive hundreds, if not thousands, of pitches into their inboxes each and every day and they are under immense pressure to write stories that are impactful. In such an environment, journalists appreciate sources that understand their needs — relevance, timeliness, accuracy, and a unique angle. When you start to think about who your target media hit list should have on it, it’s crucial that you research and identify the journalists and publications that align with your startup's key focus areas. This is an essential step in cutting through the noise and engaging the right reporters who will care about your offering. Once the target media list is developed, it’s time to really dig in. As media strategists, part of our job is to monitor their stories, have insight into their beats, and gain an understanding of their writing style. This background work is not just courteous, it's strategic – fostering a tailored approach when it comes time to reach out. As the saying goes, first impressions are everything.

Building Authentic Relationships

Journalists are inundated with pitches that often miss the mark. A way to stand out is by making the first interaction less about what they can do for you, and more about what you can do for them. This can mean offering insights, data, or expertise that can enhance their stories, even if there's no immediate benefit to your startup. Or, it can take the form of a simple introductory email, sharing a quick hitter fact sheet on your company and spokespeople. This is a great way to open the door, get on their radar, and set the stage for when you have a big announcement to make. When it comes time to pitch, smart media strategists know that personalizing communication is key. A generic blast to a long list of journalists is the fastest route to the trash folder. Instead, we like to craft messages that address the journalist’s interests and recent articles, making a concise, clear, and compelling connection to their beat. This not only demonstrates that we’ve done our homework, but that we can actually add value to their stories. It’s important to note that authentic relationship building isn’t merely about getting your story published but positioning thought leaders to become a reliable and go-to source for the journalist. This means keeping the lines of communication open and consistent, even when you don't have a story to pitch.

A Piece of Coverage Doesn’t Die After It’s Been Published

Landing a great piece of coverage shouldn’t be seen as the finish line. This harkens back to a challenge addressed early about the state of journalism – the need to foster readership. To support journalists who have covered your story, it’s crucial to share the coverage across your startup’s communication channels — be it your website, newsletter, or social media platforms. Tag the journalist and the outlet, showing appreciation and increasing the story’s reach. This not only boosts your visibility but also helps build the journalist's profile — a win-win. From there, it’s important to monitor the response to the coverage. Engage with the audience that comments or shares the story, and use the feedback to refine your media strategy. The more your content resonates with the audience, the more likely journalists will be inclined to cover your future endeavors.

How Media Training Can Help Build Great Relationships

Even with a strong relationship in place, the way your startup's stories are conveyed can make or break your media success. This is where media training comes into play. A well-executed media training program equips founders, CEOs, and spokespeople with the skills to navigate interviews effectively, deliver key messages, and handle tough questions with poise. All effective media training programs should cover the following:

  • Message Development: Crafting concise and memorable messages that align with your brand's narrative.
  • Interview Techniques: Learning how to control the conversation, bridge back to your key points, and remain calm under pressure.
  • Non-Verbal Communication: Understanding the power of body language and tone of voice.
  • Crisis Communication: Preparing for potential negative scenarios and responding appropriately. In the hands of a well-trained spokesperson, a media interview can transform from a daunting challenge into a golden opportunity to showcase leadership and instill trust in your brand.

Media Relations is a Garden that Needs Constant Tending

Navigating media relations is not a one-off event but a continuous journey. Each interaction with a journalist is a step towards a mutually beneficial relationship. Remember that in this journey, authenticity, consistency, and preparedness are your best allies. As your startup grows, so too should your relationships with key journalists. By taking the time to cultivate these relationships with care, your startup won't just earn media coverage — it will earn a voice in the marketplace and a reputation that resonates with credibility and authority. And in the crowded world of new ventures, that can make all the difference. Stay tuned for part five, where we dive into how startups can wisely wield social media.

Part 1: A Quick and Easy Public Relations Primer for Startups

Part 2: Media Relations for Startups: The Right (and Wrong) Time to Bring an Agency on Board

Part 3: Crafting Your Startup’s Story: The Power of Effective Brand Messaging

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