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Tips On Building Great Connections With Journalists And Editors

Win their hearts by being authentic, resourceful, patient and curious

Photo by Evangeline Shaw on Unsplash

As Editor for Op-Ed at Marketing in Asia (MIA), I am excited to be connected with contributors from the Asia Pacific and enjoy reading their well-written, authentic, personalised and insightful commentaries . Today, we have more than 160 contributors whose pieces are well-received by our readers with 53,000 page views. In addition, I also look forward to interviewing B2B business leaders, C-suites, academia, brands owners, professionals and personalities for our exclusive Talking Pod column whose insights are just purely phenomenal.

In my experience as a PR specialist, engaging and building connections with journalists and media is an effective way to increase brand awareness and credibility. Besides well-written commentaries, a good publicity and brand exposure can be secured through interview pitches by PR agencies and consultants who have a clear angle or a narrative. Ask any PR specialist, and they will agree that making the right connection and developing a strong relationship with the media can bring huge value to the organisation. As an editor, I welcome pitches that present a specific news focus , one that will make my readers sit up and go WOW! or provide an a-ha! moment, gives a fresh perspective or stories of personalities that ae simply inspiring.

Having spent more than a decade working with journalists and editors, I was trained to develop story pitches that the media will bite. By a twist of fate, I am now on this side of the fence, receiving pitches, press releases, articles, and interview requests. Being on both sides has made me appreciate and value the good working relationships between media and PR even more.

However, there are two very important elements that will kick-start a good working relationship.

  • Get to Know Us. Just like building a good relationship with any professional, the first step is to connect and get to know your journalists and editors. With social media, you can always find out more about them through LinkedIn. Do your research on the beat they cover or niche areas, study and observe the writing style as well as the tone of their pieces. Feel free to connect, have a chat and introduce yourself and/or your brand. You may even consider subscribing to Telum Media to get access to hundreds of media contacts. The intelligence database provide the name of the journalists, publications, contact details, the beat they cover and the best time to contact them. While you may not have a story at the point of connection, it is a good first step to get them familiar with you or your organisation. You never know, in time to come, there may be a chance for both of you to collaborate on a story resulting in free publicity. Are you a subject expert or thought leader? Good time to raise your personal branding, introduce yourself and your expertise area for future opportunities to be quoted in their stories.
  • Know What They Need. When you are submitting articles or blog pieces, note the publication’s  writing and submission guidelines . This is really important so that you will know what to expect, including the number of backlinks allowed, type of image extensions accepted, and video requirements. When pitching for interviews, point 1 is key. Take time to understand and study what sort of stories will interest them and their readers. Provide the most compelling narrative to hook them. Give clear and succinct responses to the interview questions including good quotable sound bites that can be easily lifted. An interview response that is well-articulated and thought-through will save both parties time as it prevents multiple checks, guess work and clarifications.

Here are additional tips and best practices on how to create a mutually-beneficial PR-media relationships.

How will your story impact readers? When sending your story pitches, press release and articles, consider how your story will impact their readers and the community. It helps to identify the purpose of your piece – is it to educate, inspire, or entertain? Once you know your purpose, it makes it easier to write the article and pitch it appropriately. For MIA, we cover anything that is marketing and public relations. However, besides marketing related articles, we are also pushing out more business, life, and other professional-related cool ideas as well.

Identify the publication you want to write for and why. Choosing the right publication for your articles and interviews is essential so that your pieces gets the right exposure and read by people who matter. It also helps you tailor your pieces ensuring that they are relevant and engages the right audience. At the same time, being in the right writing community can elevate your profile and your niche. If you are in luck, the right exposure may even land you an invitation to guest post for other publications or open new business or job opportunities. So, choose wisely.

Customise your pitch. For PR professionals, it is a common practise to issue a one-time mass email distribution of your press release. However, it helps to customise your pitch to a specific media for better outcome. It also gives a personal touch and exclusivity to the story. For example, I made it a point to provide different story angles to different media while pitching my graduate profiles in the previous organisation I worked for. That way, no two stories in any media are the same, and it gives the media an exclusive right to feature that particular profile. 

Understand that your news may not necessarily be news to us. Having been on the PR side of the fence, I learned a valuable lesson. What is news to our client or organisation may not be news to the media. Thus, it is important to have a knack and evaluate if the news will entice the media. Go back to the drawing board by understanding what will interest the media and best of all, pitch something that is not already covered by other media. Is it different, is it new, is it groundbreaking? If you have a close relationship with the media, you can consider checking in with them, share your pitch and see if there is value for them to consider running your story. 

Provide complete content and contact details. Journalists and editors are busy people and they get hundreds of pitches daily. Ensure that your pitch is to the point and grabs their attention immediately. It helps if you indicate the purpose of your pitch in your email subject line e.g – Interview Pitch: ABC Company appoints former XYC Chief as New CEO. or Article Pitch : Trend Analysis of XYZ. If you have supplementary information, ensure you attach the complete files and provide working links. Include your contact details or your social media handle so that the media can easily get hold of you should they need to speak to you urgently. Most importantly, be accessible and inform your journalist the best time for them to get hold of you.

Write in simple English. When pitching your story or writing an article for a publication, let’s assume that not everybody has a Ph.D. in English or can understand technical terms. Present your articles in a manner where it is easy to understand and engaging. As far as possible, avoid complicated and bombastic words, – unless it is indeed the style and tone of the publication, or for an academia, technical or scientific journal. As a rookie PR officer many years ago, I was reminded that a good piece of writing is one where it can easily be understood by a 12- year old. That could be a good litmus test for you as well.

Follow the media on social media, engage, and share their stories. One way to know what your journalists and editors are interested in, is to follow their stories. Another is to notice the kind of content they put up on social media. If it is something of your interest, be a sport. Share their stories on your social media, engage and provide your comments and views as well. When a publication publish your interviews or carry your opinion pieces, it is free publicity for you. Thus, be proud of it and share them across all your channels. You definitely do not want to put such a great piece into waste.

One thing to note is that journalists and editors work on multiple stories and have to deal with multiple parties daily. Be patient when you have submitted your pitches, releases and articles to them. Allow them time to read and digest the information. If you have an important press release, consider the lead time from the time you develop the pitch to the possible print date. Do not expect the publication to print your story immediately if it is not time-sensitive or groundbreaking. It is okay though, to follow up and check on the date of publications. For MIA , the publication dates of all articles are published every Sunday, so check them out regularly.

Ultimately, the key to a great connection and a landing successful story outcome is to always be on your toes, be resourceful, keep engaging, be patient, be curious and keep trying. Eventually, you will get your big break. After all, we need each other to thrive in this business.

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Written By

Kartina is Marketing In Asia's Editor for Op-Ed. She is also the Founder of Tin Communications. A media specialist with over 20 years of experience in both public and private sectors, she helps SMEs grow their business through strategic media and marketing plans. Connect with her on LinkedIn. You may also reach her by email at kartina@localhost.

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