22 FAQs people ask about how to build relationships with the media
- How do I find journalists?
- Where do I find a journalist's contact details?
- Should I email or phone a journalist?
- How should I follow up my initial email to a journalist?
- What's the best way to contact a journalist?
- How should I pitch a story to a journalist?
- When's the best time to put out some news?
- Should I send samples to the journalists?
- How do I find out when journalists might want a quote from me?
- How do I get to online bloggers and influencers?
- How can I get my product in Christmas gift guides?
- How can I get found by journalists?
- How do I find out what journalists are writing about?
- Do I have to pay for a blogger or journalist to cover me?
- What is an advertorial?
- How do I know if an article is newsworthy?
- Do journalists ever open their emails?
- How do I get my email opened by a journalist?
- How do I build up a relationship with a journalist?
- What turns a journalist on?
- What turns a journalist off?
- What happens if a journalist does not cover my story?
1. How do I find journalists?
Read the publications that are relevant to your industry sector; this might be a trade magazine or a well-read blog. Note down journalists who have an interest in the sort of business that you run, or the sort of story that you want to publicise.
Online editions will normally have a bio or summary that illustrates the journalist's main interests and list some of the previous articles they have written.
In addition, search social media platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn for common keywords and hashtags used in your industry. You will find previous articles and journalist profiles.
2. Where do I find a journalist's contact details?
Find the publication they work for and look on the website, as most publications will have a contacts page. It is best to contact the journalist directly if you can, rather than sending emails to a generic [email protected] or [email protected] email address.
If the email address is not on the contact page, it may be included in a biography that goes with their articles.
You can also check the journalist's social media accounts. Twitter bios and LinkedIn summaries are a common place to find contact details. You may also find a link to their own website, which will have a contact page.
Alternatively, you can buy a list of journalist contact details from one of the many databases that are available for this purpose.
3. Should I email or phone a journalist?
It is usually best to email the journalist first. Explain why it is worth talking to you and ask when they would be free for a call.
Journalists receive numerous calls each day, most of which they view as time-wasters. So they do not like to be cold-called.
4. How should I follow up my initial email to a journalist?
Journalists can receive hundreds of emails each day, and going through all these emails takes time, so do not panic if they do not respond straight away. However, some emails may be missed and most emails will be quickly read and then discarded.
If a journalist has not responded after a few days of sending the initial email, you might send another asking if they received the email and whether they would like further information. You can also spell out potential angles or points of interest that would resonate with their audience.
However, do not pitch directly on social media. If the journalist thought that your original email was not newsworthy, being pushy will not help.
If you already have a good relationship with the journalist and you know they don't mind receiving calls, call them to make them aware of the email. However, it is best to avoid cold-calling.
5. What's the best way to contact a journalist?
Start by following and interacting with them on social media. The journalist will start to recognise your name, especially if your comments are insightful and helpful. It is the start of a relationship.
Once a relationship has begun, email the journalist with your pitch and refer to the previous social media engagement.
However, avoid pitching to journalists on social media. It is likely to turn them off.
6. How should I pitch a story to a journalist?
When you are ready to pitch your story, send the journalist an email referencing any previous engagement with them by you on social media, or an article of theirs you have previously read.
Show them you have done your research: you know who they are and what they write about, and you're not sending a round-robin generic email.
Create an eye-catching headline; many journalists receive hundreds of emails a day, so it needs to stand out.
Include all the necessary information, including any high-resolution images. Offer a phone call or meeting to discuss your story further.
7. When's the best time to put out some news?
Think about the lead time of the publications you want to be featured in. For example, online articles can be uploaded almost instantly, that same day or later in the week. Weekly publications tend to plan their content a week or two in advance. Monthly publications, such as glossy magazines, often plan three to five months in advance. When is the ideal time for your story to appear?
If your story is topical at the moment, send it to journalists immediately, before interest in the topic passes. For example, if your business is going to be hugely impacted by the latest government announcement, now is the time to give your opinion.
Avoid putting out news when journalists will be preoccupied with matters like elections or the Budget - unless your story is related to these events.
8. Should I send samples to the journalists?
If you have a suitable sample that will be of interest to a journalist and can be sent, it may transform your chances of achieving media coverage.
For example, if you can get a journalist to experience your product they will be in a position to write about their own experience, as opposed to simply reporting what someone has written in a press release and sent to them.
9. How do I find out when journalists might want a quote from me?
Search for the hashtags #journorequest and #prrequest on Twitter. You will find tweets from journalists looking for relevant people to talk to for their upcoming articles.
For example, this tweet: “Any small businesses want to talk to me about wages and employment before elections for BBC. #journorequest.”
Alternatively, you can sign up to an online media database. They will send you emails with requests from journalists on a daily basis, but only the relevant categories of requests that you have chosen.
10. How do I get to online bloggers and influencers?
Bloggers and influencers are very active on social media. They often have Twitter, Instagram and YouTube accounts. Follow, watch and engage with the accounts to see if your business is relevant to them.
Their contact details are on their blog. They may also use hashtags on Twitter, such as #journorequest and #prrequest, to find specific businesses to work with.
There are also online platforms that connect businesses and bloggers.
Established bloggers may ask to be paid to promote your product.
11. How can I get my product in Christmas gift guides?
Think about which media you are targeting and understand their lead times. For example, many glossy magazines start to source their Christmas products in July, whereas an online publication may not start looking until November.
Keep an eye on the #journorequest hashtag on Twitter, to see if any journalists are beginning to look for products. You can also sign up to online services that will send you relevant requests from all media.
Make it easy for the journalists. Use headings such as Name of Product, Description, Price, Stockists. Include high-resolution images and 'cut-outs' of your product (eg your product against a white background). Journalists will often choose those products with the best images.
12. How can I get found by journalists?
If a journalist does not already know a suitable business to talk to about a particular topic, their next step is usually to search on the internet.
An example of a company that has rarely been out of the press since the day it was founded is Innocent Drinks. If you look at their website you will see how the Innocent team generates story after story, and has a complete section just for the press. The company has built relationships with key journalists from the very beginning.
For most businesses, getting found via an online search by journalists may be more a matter of luck than judgement. It partly depends on your search engine ranking for whatever search words the journalist is using.
13. How do I find out what journalists are writing about?
It is easy to find out what journalists are writing about in a particular industry. For example, search for 'food industry news UK' on Google. The main topics and trends will be reflected in the stories being covered. Are there any that you can fit in with?
Once you have identified who the relevant journalists are, you can do further research to find the specific journalists who are most likely to want to cover your story - based on what they have written in the past. For example, some journalists like to write about start-ups, some like scandal, some like disruptive technology, and some like to cover the major companies and the industry trends.
Knowing what is on the news agenda is crucial to keeping your press releases interesting to journalists.
14. Do I have to pay for a blogger or journalist to cover me?
While you may pay a PR company to help you achieve publicity, you do not have to pay the journalist or the publication.
The publication wants to be able to choose what it publishes, on the basis of what is newsworthy and what its readers will want to read. A publisher's credibility is based on its editorial independence.
However, some publications charge businesses to be 'associates', and then allow those businesses to publish their blogs in a section called 'associate news'.
There is also a type of paid-for content called an advertorial.
When it comes to working with bloggers you may be asked to pay to be featured.
15. What is an advertorial?
Advertorial is content which is published because it is paid for.
Whereas an advertisement is easily identifiable as an ad, an advertorial tends to look like a normal article. It will usually contain information that the reader finds useful or interesting. For example, a finance company that specialises in equity release for homeowners may set out all the reasons why this might be a good step for you to take, including some interesting facts and figures.
It is standard practice in publishing to clearly label advertorial items as 'Advertorial', to avoid the reader feeling that they have been tricked.
Think carefully if a journalist offers you an advertorial. Many readers may choose not to read it, simply because of the Advertorial tag at the top of the item.
16. How do I know if an article is newsworthy?
Is your story interesting in its own right? Does it provide answers to the questions readers are asking? Is the information relevant to what is currently on the news agenda and being discussed?
If the answer is yes, there is more of a chance that it is newsworthy.
Different publications will be looking for different things. For example, a local lifestyle magazine may be interested in your new restaurant, if it is sufficiently different and interesting; but there is no reason to expect a national newspaper or a national restaurant magazine to be interested unless you know the right journalists and the story is truly exceptional.
17. Do journalists ever open their emails?
Journalists always open the emails from the people they know and have a relationship with.
It is the speculative emails from unknown senders that may remain unopened, or are opened but only skim read and then discarded.
But don't be discouraged. Journalists are looking for news all the time and much of their news comes via press releases sent to them via email.
Remember, an eye-catching headline will increase the chances of your email being opened.
18. How do I get my email opened by a journalist?
Before sending the email, try and build a relationship.
The other key element is the subject line of your email, which has to entice them into wanting to read more.
You can also tweet them saying 'You've got mail' and include your email address. This may prompt the journalist to search for your email.
19. How do I build up a relationship with a journalist?
Find them on social media, follow them, read their content and share it. You will be noticed almost immediately.
Commenting intelligently on their tweets and posts also helps bring you to their attention and creates a relationship.
You will find Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook useful for this. Some journalists are also active on Instagram.
Then send your email. Emails with a punchy, relevant heading, and with a press release attached, stand a better chance of being noticed.
If possible, invite the journalist for a quick coffee to discuss how you can work together. Make it easy for the journalist and offer to meet somewhere near their offices.
20. What turns a journalist on?
Every journalist is in the business of being read, viewed and shared. This only happens if they publish material that is relevant, informative and attention-grabbing.
To become relevant, your news needs to connect with an existing news agenda. If your business is somehow involved in helping to solve the climate change problem, it makes sense to talk about it at the moment when climate change is headline news.
Not only must your news be relevant, it should also add to the conversation with insights and angles that others have not yet covered. Be informative. New research or your own experiences linked to hard facts are both good ways of making a story attractive to journalists.
21. What turns a journalist off?
Journalists are bombarded with all sorts of information claiming to be news. A 'press release' that does nothing but explain the features and benefits of your product is not news. It is a sales pitch and will simply annoy the journalist. Price lists and news of new distribution outlets may be interesting to you, but they are of little interest to others.
The way to keep a journalist turned on is by being relevant, informative and insightful.
22. What happens if a journalist does not cover my story?
PR coverage is never guaranteed. Even if the journalist thinks it will make a good feature, they still need approval from their editor.
Even after a feature is written it may still be dropped at the last minute if a more interesting item suddenly appears. If this happens it is important to keep in touch with the journalist to see if they can post the feature at a later date.