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Entrepreneur's Guide to Building Better Media Relationships

Entrepreneur's Guide to Building Better Media Relationships
Credit: Pressmaster/Shutterstock

When you embark on your entrepreneurial journey, your first goal probably involves spreading brand awareness and recruiting customers. Many business owners reach out to the media for publicity, eager to share their story and promote their business.

To achieve this, however, you must approach the situation properly. Building positive media relationships is possibly the most important task of entrepreneurship, and failing to do so can be detrimental to your company. Here’s how to do it – the right way.

Before you pitch a journalist, you'll want to understand who they are and what they cover. Going in blind will show that you're only in it for yourself, rather than searching for a mutually beneficial arrangement.

"To make a good impression, it's essential to research and understand a reporter's beat before sending them a pitch," said George Bradley, PR manager at Circa Interactive. "By taking an in-depth look at the stories they've covered and the articles they've written recently, you'll be able to get a thorough understanding of the stories they're most interested in and will therefore have a much better chance of pitching them something they'll be receptive to."

Also, keep in mind that every journalist is different. Some like to be pitched via email, while others favor phone calls. Rather than assuming, ask for their preferred method of communication off the bat and stick with it, said Vicki LaBrosse, director of global public relations at Edge Legal Marketing.

Once you start communicating with contacts on a more regular basis, create a list or spreadsheet to keep track of each person. Include information like their email, beat, previous collaboration, the last time you pitched them and any other details you deem necessary.

"Keeping a list of media contacts that you have developed a professional rapport with can be a great way to maintain relationships and land easy PR wins in the future," said Bradley. "It's important to send these contacts personalized pitches and reference any previous work that you've done with them. This will help to show your appreciation for the media placements they have helped to facilitate and ensure that they remember who you are."

Also, he added, pitch these contacts often enough that they keep you in mind, but not so often that they roll their eyes every time they see an email from you. You can refer to your list to determine a schedule that works best for both sides.

Journalists are busy people with perpetually full inboxes. Their time, just like yours, is valuable, and you should treat it as such.

"When working with the media, speed of response is critical to success," said Bradley. "You cannot sit on a journalist's response for a couple of days, or even a few hours in some cases, without potentially losing the opportunity completely ... Not responding quickly is a surefire way to damage a relationship with reporters and editors. You will only have one opportunity to get it right, so clear communication with everyone involved is vital."

If you can't form an elaborate response to their email or request right away, Bradley recommended letting them know that you're working on it so they don't seek out someone else instead.

On the flip side, make sure you're patient with them as well. LaBrosse advised giving your contacts space in between pitches and messages.

"Follow-up is fair, but too many reminders may be considered annoying or even spam," she said. "If you don't get a response, do not be afraid to rework the pitch – it is all part of the process. In the end, if the relationship is nurtured and respected, the reward will come."

Sammi Caramela

Sammi Caramela has always loved words. When she isn't working as a Business News Daily and Business.com staff writer, she's writing (and furiously editing) her first novel, reading a YA book with a third cup of coffee, or attending local pop-punk concerts. The only time Sammi doesn't play it safe is when she's writing. Reach her by email, or check out her blog at sammisays.org.