As we PR typed always tell our clients, it's all about relationships. Particularly our relationships with journalists, which after all, are what most clients believe they are paying for.

Although our connections with journalists are crucial, journalists are not our friends. We use them just as they use us. This was reinforced at a recent Denver workshop hosted by former Rocky Mountain News reporters Rachel Brand and Janet Forgrieve. They emphasized that journalists and PR pros have mutually beneficial relationships that need to be kept professional and maintained through constant contact. They suggested cultivating a few relationships with journalists who cover beats relevant to your clients. You can count on them to listen and they can count on you for a good story. Simple, right? Wrong.
As newspapers continue shrinking, it is hard to tell who covers what anymore. Cutbacks sever our connections and journalists are no longer just reporters. Now they need to be videographers and editors too, and they often cover topics they don't know much about. They are under more pressure so they have less time to schmooze. Pressure makes it harder to start, build and maintain relationships. So what can we do about it? Here are a few tips from Brand and Forgrieve.
  • Meet and greet. Set up time for coffee to talk about your clients and their upcoming stories. Offer to be a reliable resource.
  • Read their articles. Let them know you are truly interested in what they write. Remember who you are contacting. Don't send the wrong pitch to the wrong journalist.
  1. Be your own journalist. Are you sure that what you are pitching is really newsworthy? Is it indicative of a new trend?
  2. Be prepared. Do you have the information they need? Can you provide video for websites? Saving a journalist some steps will go a long way in building your relationship
  3. Don't be a pest. Follow up with a call and another email, and then stop. If they are interested, you will hear from them.Don't burn bridges. There are lots of other PR folks out there they can turn to for stories.
Our reputations are our business. Damage them and we won't be in business long. If your gut tells you that the client wants you to do something that you know is not right, then go with your instinct. Long after you are done with the client you will still need the relationship with the journalist. Even if they are just using us, we still need them to be user friendly.

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