How to contact a journalist: Media relations 101

How to contact a journalist: Media relations 101

It’s no secret that public relations can be a challenging yet rewarding profession.

One of the biggest obstacles? Figuring out how to contact a journalist.

Whether you’re just starting out in PR or are a seasoned veteran, finding the right reporters to pitch and effectively sharing your message with them can be tricky at times.

[If you haven’t already, be sure to download our free ebook, How to Craft a Winning PR Pitch]

Hopefully, you’ve already spent time crafting a great pitch and are ready to fire it off. Now, it’s time to figure out who to send your story to.

We’ve rounded up the five most efficient ways to contact journalists, including how to find them and what you should keep in mind when working with them on a story.

1. Be proactive when it comes to finding journalists to pitch

Before you figure out how to contact a journalist, you have to make sure you’re targeting the right journalist for your story.

Tools like Muck Rack make sorting and finding the right reporters to pitch simple.

Using Muck Rack’s advanced search feature, you can enter relevant keywords to find journalists who have those keywords in their titles, Twitter bio or recent tweets or see reporters who shared articles recently featuring those keywords. Directly from this page, you can add a journalist to your media list!

Now you have a highly-relevant list of journalists to browse and articles to peruse to get closer to your target reporter.

Save your work by adding reporters to a custom media list and continue organizing key contacts to ensure your data is fresh.

2. Take the time to personalize your message

Wave goodbye to the blanket pitch! The spray and pray approach to PR has been dead for awhile.

By now you’ve already crafted your list of journalists and read through their recent work with the help of a tool like Muck Rack.

Use that knowledge to make a personal connection with the reporter. Before you contact a journalist, spend a little extra time and effort customizing each pitch you send with the reporter’s name and, if possible, a reference to a recent story they’ve written.

The added effort will be worth it when it results in a media hit!

3. Follow up after an appropriate amount of time passes (But don’t be pushy)

After initially contacting a journalist, give them a few days to review the pitch, and then follow up via email.

If you don’t hear from them after a follow-up, assume they aren’t interested in what you’re offering at this time.

Always be respectful of a reporter’s time and right to decide if they would like to cover the story or not.

4. Put the phone down

According to our recent journalist survey, 72 percent of journalists wish PR pros would stop calling them to pitch story ideas, so try to avoid it altogether.

If you do choose to contact a journalist by phone, start your call by asking “Is now a good time?” before launching into your pitch.

You never know when a reporter may be on deadline or if you’re interrupting a personal event.

Along those same lines, keep your pitches off Twitter unless it’s appropriate. Twitter is a great place to build relationships, but most of the time, it’s not a good idea to tweet your pitch right to the journalist.

5. Thank the reporter by sharing their story after it goes live

Finally! All your hard work paid off: A journalist accepted your pitch and published a story featuring your company or client.

Not only should you thank the reporter you worked with, but go one step further and share their story online. (Pro tip: It's a good idea to @mention the journalist; if you tweet a story directly from a Muck Rack alert, it'll automatically @mention the journalist!)

Whether you tweet it, post it to Facebook or just pass it around to company employees and stakeholders, the extra reach will go along way when it comes to solidifying your relationship with a reporter.

You can even check how many times a story has been shared by checking out Muck Rack’s Who Shared My Link? tool.

What other tips would you share when it comes to contacting journalists? Let us know on Twitter.

Curious to learn more about how Muck Rack can help you improve your public relations success? We’d love to tell you more.

Jessica Lawlor is the features editor for the Muck Rack blog and handles PR and social media for Muck Rack.

Photo via Pixabay

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