By: Chey Bell, Account Manager

Every so often, a journalist will publish a list of helpful tips on how we, PR people, should go about developing a relationship with reporters. In most cases, the list usually starts with the idea that you try to meet the reporter in person. While that sounds like a good idea, setting up a face-to-face is extremely difficult to arrange. Reporters are extremely busy and trying to get them to meet with someone they don’t personally know is nearly impossible, not to mention awkward. If the goal is to develop a relationship, why not treat it the same way you all the other relationships in your life? Take an interest in who they are and become familiar with how they cover stories. There are a host of prerequisite alternatives you can consider before inviting them out for a meet-and-greet. That way, when you finally invite the reporter out for a coffee date, you’ll increase the chances that they will accept. To continue this path, we’ve scoured the internet and collated a list of tips for PR pros, written by journalists, that we believe are spot on and will help you get to second base.

  1. Interact on Social Media

Morgan Norris of Trew Marketing says that the ideal tone for social media interactions should be casual: “Keep your social media engagements with the press informal and genuine, regardless of the topic, if you want to build strong relationships with the press that go beyond just your professional expertise.”

  • Share their content directly from the publication’s site. Tag the journalist.
  • Respond to comments or questions she asks on social media.
  • Retweet or share what they shared.

Keep in mind, while many journalists like getting pitches through Facebook or Twitter, 45 percent don’t want to be pitched there at all. Check their stream and see if there are any clues that can help you determine whether pitching them there is a good idea.

Susan Guillory, President of Egg Marketing & Communications


  1. Reach Out Proactively

“Don’t wait until you need to get a story out before contacting journalists. Instead, get in touch beforehand to find out how and when the press prefers to be contacted. What sort of stories do they typically work on? Offer yourself as a resource. More than three out of four journalists in the survey named their personal network as the first place they look for sources — so when your first impression doesn’t come with an “ask” attached, you’re more likely to have the journalist’s ear when you need it. And even if a writer turns out not to be a good fit for your current portfolio, you’ll have made a respectful first impression on somebody that might need your help in the future.”

Christopher Van Mossevelde MeNewsDesk


  1. Keep Your Promises

Colette Sexton from the Sunday Business Post says that journalists hate broken promises.

“Often I only agree to an interview after confirming with the PR that I will get a specific piece of information. I then ask the client that question, and they look at me blankly. Do you think I will forget to ask?” Same goes for photos. “Photos are important. We have no problem dropping a story if you don’t deliver on the promised visuals.” Media HQ, Conor Hawkins

  1. “Serve the Readers, Not Yourself”

“A lot of new clients think that working with journalists is an opportunity to give a huge sales pitch about themselves or their company. But that’s not what makes people care about you. You have to have a story and something valuable to share with the audience that is not just a sales pitch for you or your company.”   – Brian D. Evans, Influencive / BDE Ventures

  1. Ditch the “Just Checking In” Follow-up approach

The “just checking in” message is the worst, says Leslie Ye, editor of HubSpot’s sales blog. It’s obvious that you’re checking in and it provides no additional value to the message recipient.

Ye suggests 23 better email subject lines. Although addressed specifically for salespeople, some may also apply to PR and marketing. Here are a few:

  • Respond to a social message, and then follow up with more resources.
  • Reference a relevant blog post they just published.
  • Ask them “Did this email get buried?”

“Just checking in messages are warranted in some circumstances, Ye adds, such as when the contact has previously committed to an action but hasn’t done it and hasn’t replied if they told you to check back in a certain time.”

  1. Get behind a cause

If you can’t sell to a reporter on the stories of your clients alone, then you may want to find a way to make a difference in another way. Hold a fundraiser or become a sponsor of a community charity event. Simply by being attached to the goodwill event, you will get mentioned in the article.

Neil Patel


It might be best to wait until you’ve secured interest or placed a story before taking things to the next level, and even then, tread lightly. Perhaps ask to connect on LinkedIn or some other non-personal social site. At the end of the day, having the right relationships are vital if you want to be successful in PR.

Remember, having a general interest in people is key. When you understand that building relationships takes time and you’re willing to do the work, you put yourself on the path to success. It’s not about chasing down the right contacts, but rather your intentions. When you are authentic, you will have an abundance of coffee dates and alliances with all the right people.