Pitch JournalistsMy email inbox is a testament to the fact that many PR professionals are equating busy-ness (the ways they pitch journalists through sheer numbers) with working hard at their jobs.

If only it were that simple!

Here’s the thing—most of the pitches we receive for Spin Sucks are ice cold.

They’re from someone we don’t know, and whom none of us have seen interacting with our community.

It’s incredibly rare these folks hear back from any of us.

(Although, I did once respond to an account executive, mostly because I could tell she was doing someone else’s bidding. And then we became friends. And that was awesome.)

If you’re pitch journalists with an ice cold email without building relationships with them first, you’re wasting your time.

When their inbox is overflowing with emails, they’re going to scan for names they know.

They scan for subject lines that show the sender knows them and what they’re interested in editorially.

Even with a great media list and media database, this level of connection takes time.

Unfortunately, it’s no longer practical or often even possible to wine and dine your favorite influencers to butter them up.

(It was a sad, sad day when the advertising columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times told me he was no longer allowed to meet me for coffee, even if we each paid for our own. Sad.)

So, without coffee dates and cocktail hours to fall back on, how can you build those relationships?

Prioritize Your Influencers

Although your or your client’s influencer wish list might be pretty long, you can realistically only focus on building strong relationships with a small number at any given time.

How do you decide who to approach first?

Consider who is actively engaging on social or to those who reply to comments left on their articles or posts.

If you prioritize a reporter who uses their social channels only as a one-way distribution feed for their content, it’s going to be significantly more difficult to catch their attention.

It’s much, much easier with those who actually use social media to, well, be social.

Conduct an Ongoing Engagement Campaign

Today’s journalists are often compensated in whole or in part based on the level of engagement their content generates.

That’s why engaging with a journalist’s content is a great way to get on their radar.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Identify a newspaper, magazine, or blog that makes a difference in your industry. Who is the one journalist who most frequently writes pieces in which you’d like to be mentioned?
  • Each week, comment thoughtfully on one piece of content by this journalist. It’s OK if you disagree, as long as you do so professionally and back up your points. Take time to write a comment that provides value to the readers of the post, while at the same time showing your subject matter expertise.
  • Keep this up every week. After a couple of months, your name will become familiar to the journalist, and you may finally receive a call from them regarding a story in the works.
  • Every quarter add another publication, so you have four that you focus on each year.
  • Don’t be afraid to go after the big publications. If your expertise adds value to the stories they’re reporting, comment away!

Amplify Their Content

When a journalist writes a piece of content you wish your organization or client had been included in, make a point of sharing that content on your brand channel.

As a bonus, this demonstrates you value their expertise and reporting and you are providing your community with valuable content that helps them with their day-to-day business.

In addition to retweeting or re-sharing updates the journalist posts on social media, curate and share links to their content that you can post with your own commentary.

By showing you have interest and expertise in an area they are actively writing about, you considerably increase your chances of being on the reporter’s short list for interviews the next time the topic comes up.

Building strong relationships with reporters takes time, but social media gives you unprecedented access and insight into what they need from PR pros.

Commit to taking the time to build a relationship that will last and you just might be surprised at the long-term benefits you can accrue.

Now it’s Your Turn: How Do You Pitch Journalists?

I know many of you have had really good luck with earned media, particularly when you use this approach to pitch journalists.

Perhaps you’ve worked with Michael Smart or you’ve had a really good mentor who taught you the correct way.

Or you have just rolled up your sleeves and taught yourself.

In any case, I’d love to hear some of your tips to get results from your hard work.

A version of this (minus my snarky comments) first appeared on the PRSA blog.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich