PR is all about people. It’s about establishing, maintaining, and leveraging the right connections. It’s about meeting different people and constantly communicating with them. In a business where relationships are everything, PR becomes more of a lifestyle than a profession. And networking — more of a necessity than a pleasant pastime.
In the previous blog post, we shared how you can leverage media to meet your business goals. This time we take a step back and explain why PR networking is essential for any specialist working in this industry and how to build effective and mutually beneficial connections.
PR networking is very similar to usual networking but with journalists, editors, hosts, and other media representatives. How can you be useful to each other? That’s easy: you are ready to share great stories, and the media not only need those stories but also want to be the first to cover them. Seems like a perfect match, but it does not work that simply — journalists get so many emails a day that they just don't have enough time to cover everything.
In 2018 public relations jobs exceed reporting jobs by 6.4-to-1, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2021 the gap continues to grow but not without reason: the U.S. Department of Labor projected employment in PR will have increased by 9% by 2026, while reporter jobs are expected to decline 9% over the same period. We’ve already analyzed the reasons why journalists are leaving traditional media outlets in The State of Media 2020 report published earlier.
This statistic only applies to PR pros. Now imagine how many founders and entrepreneurs prefer to communicate with journalists directly, without PR people? It’s hard to calculate the exact number but the ratio of journalists to those who want something from them clearly exceeds 6.4 to 1. That’s where PR networking starts: when 47.5% of journalists receive about 100 pitches a day, well-established relationships begin to play a crucial role.
If you interact with reporters on a personal level, the last tend to highlight your email from 99 other daily emails, becoming more open to your pitches and offerings. And what’s more important — journalists indeed start considering you as a partner: you help them with the content, they help you to achieve your business goals. Your goals could be forming an expert reputation, rising brand awareness, publications in top media, speaking opportunities and more. The benefits of networking are limited only by common sense and your ability to set the right goals.
The obvious at this point question is how to move from the level of cold pitching to the much-desired personal communication. Let’s dive deeper.
Based on our personal experience of building relationships with journalists, we have identified five basic tips for effective PR networking. These tips are not only suitable for PR people. We recommend following them for everyone who wants to build relationships with journalists: entrepreneurs, top managers, experts in various industries and others.
In brief: use social media correctly, pitch consciously, keep in touch, double-check information, and don't think all reporters owe you. May sound a bit complicated but let explain.
In the United States, people spend 2 hours and 3 minutes on social media each day. Social networks have become a new reality, opening up previously inaccessible opportunities for networking — now you can find out almost everything about a person just by looking at his/her social accounts.
To start PR networking, highlight the journalists with whom you would like to build personal relationships. It's not that easy: 61% of PR pros said that finding and engaging with relevant journalists is one of their biggest challenges.
Do your homework and carefully select a few journalists, then subscribe to them on social media and make a habit of checking their accounts every day. By liking and commenting on their posts or tweets from time to time, you will get their attention and understand the journalists' field of interest better. You can also attend Clubhouse rooms with these reporters and visit online events they speak at. Don't pass up any opportunities for communication, even potential ones.
Another argument besides the fact you’ll be able to get to know the journalist better: according to Muck Rack’s recent research, 78% of journalists like when PR pros follow them on social media. Why not start with that?
Let’s suppose you’ve done it: you followed reporters’ accounts, checked them regularly, and finally understood what topics they might be interested in. What’s next? Think carefully about what exactly you can offer them.
Often people fail to build a good relationship with journalists just because they offer the wrong things to the wrong authors. A journalist who writes about the investment rounds of technology startups hardly likely will want to craft an article on the problem of education in Australia. Agree?
Learn to understand correctly journalists' areas of interest and address your queries only to relevant ones. Otherwise, you risk being blacklisted and losing contact with the person for a long time. Most probably, forever.
Before pitching, think of something the journalist will be difficult to refuse: offer the most relevant, the most interesting and timely stories. And it’s better to know in advance how he/she prefers to be pitched — some journalists consider only the news sent a month before the announcement date, others don't like when people pitch them on social networks. Find out and meet all the formal requirements of the journalist, it's not hard if you follow their social networks.
Imagine you’ve done the first steps, managed to interest a journalist and he/she contacted you or even published a long-awaited article. What are you going to do next: forget about him/her until the next need? Hopefully not.
As we've discussed journalists get so many letters a day that you'll be forgotten before you reach out again. Don’t let all your PR networking efforts become cold contacts.
What to do in this case? Keep in contact with the journalist and try to communicate with him regularly. Here we go back to social media and don't let the journalist out of our sight. Comment on the article this journalist crafted recently, share something you find useful for him/her. Perhaps you can help with finding an expert or connecting him/her with someone he/she is interested in?
It’s worth noting there is a fine line between regular and annoying communication. Think about how many letters a journalist gets a day and try not to write to him/her daily asking how you can help. Put yourself in the reporter’s shoes and understand every communication even the most pleasant one has a reasonable limit. Stay in touch and communicate with journalists about 2 times per month just to keep the relationship warm and don’t spam. Really don't.
You can't imagine how often people make silly mistakes while communicating with others. They confuse names, send messages to the wrong people, forget to remove internal designators and so on.
Remember that relationships are fragile, and journalists are extremely touchy. If you make a mistake, at best he/she will just remember you as someone you shouldn't communicate with. At worst — you’ll find a screenshot of your email on Twitter with lots of unpleasant comments.
Every time you send an email or message, make it a rule to double-check the information and make sure everything is correct. A good idea is to set a timer with a possible cancellation within 30 seconds so that you receive an additional opportunity to have a look at what you’re sending.
It’s better to spend more time double-checking than rushing in and ruining the relationship, don't you agree?
The relationship between journalists both PR pros and other people who want something from them has always been complicated. Everyone prioritizes their own goals, and no one likes to be hindered from achieving them. We all understand you do networking not just for fun, but for your own benefit in the long-term. But every relationship is a specific thing that works only if two people are interested and open for communication, that will not always be the case.
Try to abstract away from your personal advantage and consider the journalist as a friend from the very beginning. He/she needs to find an expert in 15 minutes? Find one in 10, without necessarily dragging your client's ears. He/she urgently needs to interview an entrepreneur you know? Offer to arrange the interview and make sure the journalist is not let down. These small favors and mutual assistance are the basis of the relationship between you and the journalist.
Often ask what you can do for others. Only by spending your time, making an effort, and helping a journalist with his/her work or personal issues you can expect to be able to turn to him/her for help when you really need it.
Networking is complicated. Networking in PR is even more complicated. Yes, it takes a lot of effort and time, but with the right approach it will all pay off. So why not give it a chance?