How to Build a Relationship With the Media

Getting written about online or in print is a great way to garner some free publicity. But connecting with journalists is a tricky game; you and everyone else wants their attention, so it’s important to get it long before you’ve got a story to pitch.

Step 1: Identify the Players

Before you can get publicity, you have to focus on who is covering your industry. Spend time reading blogs, magazines, websites and newspapers, and identify the reporters who frequently cover your space or your competitors.

Step 2: Get Organized

Make a spreadsheet with each journalist’s contact information, including what publication she writes for, her email and phone, and any notes on her style (“frequently does book reviews”).

Step 3: Follow on Social Media

If the journalist is on Twitter, Facebook or G+, connect with her there. Read her updates. Retweet her posts. Answer her questions. Make her aware of your presence without having an objective. Create value through your interactions.

Step 4: Send a Letter of Introduction

Now is the time to connect via email. If you’ve already connected via social media, make reference to that connection (and try to have something more solid than simply “I follow you on Twitter.” Try instead: “I responded to your question about the future of tech last week”) Simply introduce yourself, give a brief sentence about what you do, and let her know that you would love to be a resource should she need an expert in your field.

You may not hear back from the reporter, and that’s okay. Don’t pester her for a response.

Step 5: Send a Pitch

Using your introduction email in the body of your pitch email, refresh her memory on who you are, and that you reached out to her a few weeks/months ago. Let her know that you have a story you think her readers would be interested in, and why they’d care (“with XYZ’s recent announcement of regulations for internet activity, this news is timely to your readers”). Give three bullet points of the news. That’s it. If you have an online press release, you can link to it. Do not include an attachment of your press release, nor paste it into the body. If she wants your release, she will let you know.

Step 6: Follow Up

If your contact seems pretty active on Twitter, use that first to follow up. Send her a direct message to ask if she received your email. It may have gotten lost in the sea of emails she receives, so this will alert her to look for it.

You won’t always get your news covered. In fact, most of the time, you will be ignored. But if you’re persistent in building relationships with the media, rather than simply blasting your press release to every  journalist on the planet, you’ll have better success.

Photo: Stock.xchng user somadjinn. Royalty free.

Susan Payton is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, an internet marketing firm specializing in marketing communications, copywriting and blog posts. She’s written two books: 101 Entrepreneur TipsandInternet Marketing Strategies for Entrepreneurs, and has blogged for several sites, including The Marketing Eggspert Blog, as well as MashableSmall Business TrendsFutureSimple, BizLaunch and Lead411. Follow her on Twitter @eggmarketing.

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