I have a lot of green clients, which is wonderful place to be as a PR professional, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to build relationships with a specific groups in the media, i.e. journalists who cover green, energy and environmental issues. Regardless of maturing social media strategies and progress, the mind shift hasn’t happened everywhere.  Clients still want results, outreach updates and how they can get in that column in the Wall Street Journal. It’s a slow progression to move into the new nooks and crannies of media, but until then, I’ve come out of my recession slump and am committed to reminding my most important group of journalists of a few things: Yes, I will read and respond to your work; no, I will not send you mindless, irrelevant pitches; and maybe, if we both be nice, we can make this PR-Reporter thing work the way it’s supposed to: I help you.

These days, you have to work harder for your results.  Reporters are pulled into breaking news left and right, covering multiple, non-related (or loosely related) beats and have to answer to editors who are under mounting pressure to sell newspapers and magazines. While the ancient rules of good PR hold up in this age of “thin media,” I’ve made a few observations:

  1.  Narrow your list and specialize when possible. It’s easier to track and respond to reporters if you are only trying to follow 25-30, instead of 100. Some agencies, like ours, are moving in a direction where teams are focused by industry – consumer, technology/IT, clean/green, government, etc. This makes building relationships easier and saves time.
  2. Really use the phone. Don’t lie, we’re all phone-shy sometimes. Do whatever you have to do to make time for calls to your key reporters. Think of something interesting to say that they’ll care about, maybe related to a recent story, and drop it in early in the conversation. Show you care.  If what you are trying to tell them is truly relevant, calling is key.  There are too many emails, too much spam and not enough time. I’d say 7-8 out of every 10 times I call a reporter they only have the vaguest memory of my email or never even got it.
  3. Get out. This is a tough one but let’s say we all have a short list of 3-4 reporters in our area that you pitch often, have a decent rapport with but need to take it to the next step.  The few meetings I’ve had with reporters have been invaluable – I’ve heard them say the same about good PR people too. Coffee meetings can lay the groundwork for stories and build your general knowledge of the press and different industries, but it also adds to your agency’s credibility and is useful in new business. Connectonline as well; follow your key journalists on Twitter and add them to your LinkedIn contacts.

At the end of the day, the struggle remains getting from point A to point B (point B being the story about your client that we’ve established… still matters). How do you move your efforts forward? For all the finessing we do to get the ear of a reporter, we still must be sharp storytellers and think ahead for them. What do they need to round out a story? Can you help them gather the elements? What other themes tie-in? Ah, for another day.

Contributed by Jennifer Eberline.  Follow her @jeberline