The importance of media relationships in the digital world

28 October 2019 4 min read
Written by

Leah Stewart

We’re living in a time when we can instantly transmit messages to people on the other side of the world. Even 30 years ago this might have sounded like something straight out of a science fiction film, but it’s now decidedly commonplace. Yes, there’s no doubt that we can communicate with people more quickly and efficiently than ever before - often without even opening our mouths. But is this actually a good thing? PR Account Manager Leah Stewart shares her thoughts in relation to PR pitching. 

In the PR world at least, the picture is very much a mixed one. Notoriously fast-paced, any speed advantage we can gain is always going to be welcomed. But when it comes to delivering the message that counts to the people that matter… that’s where things get a little more complicated. 

With so much noise now out there, it’s getting harder and harder for brands to stand out from the crowd and get their message across. Ask yourself; how much of the information you encounter on a daily basis – on TV, on social media, in annoying marketing emails – do you actually even pay attention to, let alone engage with? 

The same principle applies to companies vying for the attention of time-poor journalists. Constantly bombarded with pitches, press releases and news tips, which may or may not be relevant to their particular beat, the task of capturing a journalist’s attention- let alone interest- can often feel positively herculean. However, it’s something that any PR pro worth their salt needs to master- and quickly- if they want to stay at the top of their game. 

How? This is where relationships come in. Good PR pros know that relationships matter and dedicate a significant amount of time to cultivating them. 

Establishing a strong professional relationship with a journalist isn’t straightforward- but it’s vital. Whether through well-timed phone calls, in-person meetings, or thoughtful and engaging emails, good PR practitioners know that demonstrating they have taken the time to get to know what journalists write about and to give them what they need to construct a compelling story, shows a level of respect that will go a long way.

If all this sounds like teaching Granny to such eggs, that’s because it should be. However, you only need to type #DearPRPeople into Twitter to find that shoddy practice is rife within the industry, with poorly targeted pitches being one of journalists’ biggest bugbears. It seems the temptation to hit send-all on a generic pitch is too much to resist for many. 

But while it may save valuable time in the short term, spamming your entire contact book with irrelevant news is unlikely to pay off in the long run. As Entrepreneur journalist and founder of Uber Brands Jonathan Long succinctly sums up: “I can smell a copy-and-paste email from a mile away, and when I receive them, I send them to the trash right away without even reading them. Generic pitches that appear to be automated are a complete waste of… time.”

Ultimately, putting in the groundwork to cultivate journalist relationships helps PR professionals to do our jobs properly. Not only does it make it more likely our clients’ news gets noticed amongst the constant barrage of digital noise, it also establishes us- and by extension our clients - as trusted sources of relevant information that will enhance journalists’ work.

Because that’s the thing about PR done the right way. It’s not about communicating your message to the highest number of people-regardless of whether they’re your target audience. It’s about communicating the right message to the right people, who will care about- and engage with- what you have to say.