Thinking Of Building Relationship With Journalists? Try These Tips


My experience over the years as a communication professional proves that effective relationship with journalists is one of the keys to success. Whereas some colleagues maintain its difficult working with journalists, others say they just have no other choice. The trick, of course, is establishing those relationships in the first place. There are a number of communication professionals that have built very solid relations that always get them results. Questions then is how did they do it? What magic is there in building that relationship? Below, I share some recipe for building long-term relationship with journalists.
1. Have enough patience. It’s not all easy to establish enduring relationships with people. Relationship, of any kind, takes a while to be formed. Don’t always expect to have that ‘click’ with a journalist at the first meeting. All people are not created same. That is why it is important to understand that the time for establishing contact varies depending on the person you’re dealing with. Make up your mind that it’s not going to happen immediately: when it does, super! If not, be prepared to stay a bit longer with it. Patience also means that some journalists, just like any other human being, may not be positive at first meeting. That doesn’t mean you should write them off. Don’t argue when you try to pitch a story and you don’t get a response. Try it some other time, maybe things will change. Otherwise, accept the loss and move on.
2. Develop interest in their work. One of the easiest ways of starting a relationship is to first get closer and show likeness for the other person. In this case, you have to deliberately develop interest in the works of your target journalist. Become his/her fan. Like their posts on social media, share those that you identify with and make relevant comments. Don’t stop there, privately send them personal notes, comments or interesting angles to a post/story they have done. This way, the journalist sees that you have interest in them, which of course, could become one of the best ways of building that perfect relationship. Developing interest in their work also gives you the opportunity to know if their approach is one you like. It affords you the privilege to know if the journalist has interest in your area of communication. When you follow a journalist, say on twitter, you get to know, through his/her tweets, whether the journalist’s interest is in entertainment, sports, health, business or any other area. Your ability to identify the interest of your target journalist makes it easier for you to build that long-lasting relationship. Note however that you must be genuine and informal if you’re relating with journalists on social media.
3. Respect the time of the journalists. Journalism is a time sensitive job. There have been many occasions where I’ve had to wait for journalist who turn up late for appointments. During these times, I will just say ‘no problem’ when they try to apologize for coming late. The reverse is however a bit tricky to handle. The rule, however, is that you should be cognizant of the heavy schedule of a reporter/journalist. They are often busy so there is no need to keep them wasting their time. Most often, a journalist may be chasing more than one deadline at a time. Once you understand this trick, you should not find it difficult to get into the good books of journalists. Is this something you’ll love to try?
4. How about arranging a face-to-face meet up? You’ve exchanged a couple of great emails. Your phone interviews have been super. But don’t assume that is enough to build that lasting relationships grow through face-to-face interacts. This could be a short conversation over lunch or over a bottle of drink or even a side meeting during conferences. Meetings of this nature offer an opportunity for you two to have an in depth and open conversation which may be lacking in emails and telephone interactions. While at it, be circumspect with what you discuss during these meetings. “Off records”, many of the times, are not really ‘off records’. What this means is that do not be so sure that your discussions are off record conversations even if you both agree so. As a matter of personal principle, I don’t have off record conversations with journalists. Not all journalists understand this basic and important ethical principle. It is just better to remain on subjects that are for public consumption when you meet with a journalist.
5. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding your job. Naturally, journalists turn to respect communication professionals who demonstrate an impressive understanding of their job. You have to exhibit professionalism in responding to questions, managing information and understanding relevant topics in your area. You don’t have to answer all question that come to you to show how knowledgeable you are. Rather, your ability to explicitly talk about those you know and refer those you don’t to the appropriate executives shows yours level of professionalism. Establish yourself as a valuable resource person who is on top of the job. Relationships with journalists, once well built, become great tools in the achievement of your communication goals. What do you think? Let me hear from you!
The writer is a communications consultant with the Newmark Group Limited – a leading African Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) firm. His email address is