Let’s face it. We all want friends in this world. That’s why we join social media, go on dates, attend happy hour with coworkers.

Reporters, journalists, and writers are people too (shocking?!). The sooner you realize humanity is all the same, the better relationships you can establish with media that really make a difference for your brand.

Whenever we start working with a company, we target the top 20 journalists that may move the needle for that business. Then we open a dialogue and try to build relationships from there. That said, not everyone wants to have “fun” at work, so we can’t say this works with all media. However, you’d be surprised at how many want to talk about weekend plans or get really excited about things that they write.

Here are five ways you can build a relationship with a reporter.

  • Find the right reporters to become “friends” with.While it’s great to build relationships with reporters, it’s important to connect with the ones who are a good fit for your brand. You can easily start this process by identifying who has covered your brand in the past or your competitors. Muck Rack is a less expensive media database that can help with this process. Then, make a list of 5-10 journalists, writers, and influencers who are a great fit for your brand, and start reaching out to them.

  • Follow them, Like, Comment, etc.

Engagement is about building relationships and being at the forefront of the reporter’s minds. Yes, you need to like their cat pics every once in a while! More importantly, following their social media channels will tell you what they’re interested in and what articles they’re working on. They also want you to share their articles to help them get readership. Remember their job is also measured just as much as yours is. The more you can help them, the happier they will be to help you. You’re building a two-way relationship.

  • Read what your new “friends” are writing about.
    Don’t just follow reporters on social media; actually, read what they’re writing. This helps you get a feel for their reporting style and for the pieces that interest them. And knowing what gets their attention can help you tailor pitches to their beat and interests. You may also be able to gauge trends or news that they are following and identify times where you can be useful.

  • Offer to help!

When you know what a reporter writes about, you know how to help them. For example, we’d been trying to reach out to a reporter in the automotive industry who was slow to respond. So, we checked their social media and reviewed several articles they’d recently posted. When we reached out again, we referenced the articles that were closest to the pitch we had in mind, and we got a response the same day.If you don’t have any interesting story pitches, you can still offer to be available as a source for research, quotes, or industry expertise. If you do this, though, remember that nothing you say is off the record.

  • Sympathize and respond to social updates, special days, etc.
    Reporters are people, too, and they appreciate positive recognition! Wish them Happy Birthday, congratulate them on awards or work anniversaries, and reach out with sympathy when appropriate. By showing you care about them – not just what they can do for you – you’ll foster stronger relationships and remain at the forefront of their minds.

(Pro tip: When you’re traveling, find the media that may be in that area and set up coffee or lunch with them just for fun. This works really well in media hubs like New York, San Francisco, and LA)

Don’t isolate your brand or yourself by overlooking key media relationships and thinking that they are just a source for you to do your job. The trends point to humanizing people and their work. Creating these connections takes time, but its worth it to establish connections that will last longer than just a week or two. Who knows, you may also build a lifelong friendship at the same time.

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