Starting a new relationship is always exciting, but it can also be nerve-wracking and downright scary. This goes for romantic relationships, and those with our friends, in-laws and even the media. As PR professionals, a huge part of our job is connecting with the media and creating long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships on behalf of our clients. But, sometimes we have as many butterflies in our stomachs when making those first media calls as we do meeting potential significant others. And it doesn’t stop there. After we make that great initial contact, we might be on cloud nine like after an amazing first date, but then it really kicks in: What’s next? How do I keep this relationship going? How many days should I wait before I call him again?
Like dating, media relations is a dance. There are certain steps to follow, but at a certain point, you just have to improvise. Here are some tips I’ve learned from working with the media on behalf of my clients:
- Slow and steady wins the race. As with any good relationship, there has to be a healthy give and take with your “media significant other.” While you want to be helpful, moving too fast can be a turnoff, which in the PR world means not providing so much content that the reporter gets annoyed and looks elsewhere for sources.
- Learn how to listen. In PR, we are constantly trying to interest reporters in a specific client story that may or may not fit into the reporter’s beat. Think of it like trying to convert a Yankees fan to join Red Sox Nation – the odds aren’t in your favor. A better tactic is emailing media contacts regularly to check in, see how they’re doing and what they’re working on to understand how you can help. This shows that you understand their business and appreciate what else they have going on, besides writing specifically about what you are pitching.
- Put yourself in their shoes. One of the most stressful things about romantic relationships can be trying to figure out how serious the relationship is. It’s often the same with media significant others. You might get to the point where you think your client is a “go to” source, but then you see a story with competitor and think, “That two-timer, what about me?” But, before you break it off (which, by the way, you probably should if this happens with your real significant other!), you have to consider that the media are obligated to be objective in their writing, which means they can’t quote the same sources in every story. Just because you missed out on one story does not mean the relationship is over.
- Learn how to move on. When a media “interest” packs his or her bags and moves on from a publication, believe me, it can be just as heart wrenching and painful as the real thing. But before you start wondering if the relationship ever meant anything at all, realize that there is nothing you can do except follow the contact to their next outlet and hope that what you are pitching is still relevant!
- Be ready to mingle! After saying goodbye to a media significant other, it’s important to remember the value your clients bring to the table, and have confidence in your skills and abilities to wow the person’s successor. By putting yourself out there with a simple call, email or tweet to say hello, you can land your next big relationship – and might even get your client on the front page of the New York Times!
Building and maintaining relationships is tricky, in both our personal and professional lives. But, relationships are the backbone of everything we do in PR, from interacting with clients to managing coworkers and collaborating with the media. Creating clear channels of communication and building a foundation of trust with each and every person with whom we have a relationship is fundamental for success – romantically and professionally.
By Shannon Watterson, Account Executive in the Corporate, Non-Profit and Education practice