Seven PR Tips for Building Great Media Relationships

My essay originally appeared as a guest blog on Muck Rack, an excellent resource for PR pros and journalists. 

Photo Credit: Esther Vargas, Creative Commons via

Congratulations! Your fabulous public relations strategy, precision targeting and customized media pitching have been rewarded with an interview request.

Reporters rely primarily on email to coordinate interviews, so use these seven media relations tips to work with them effectively and efficiently. The team at my Chicago PR firm follows these rules religiously, and they work.

Once a journalist, producer, or blogger says, “yes” to interviewing your experts, your service to them must be superb. Your service is the cornerstone of your brand and reputation. It dictates whether you’ll develop a lasting relationship with that journalist. Make it stellar and reporters will keep coming back for new sources, knowing with confidence that you will deliver exactly what they need and on deadline. Make it difficult and reporters will ignore your pitches, or say “I’ll a pass,” when you send story ideas.

1. Subject Lines – A Reporter’s Guidepost

Be sure your subject lines are attention grabbing. If you need tips for writing better subject lines, go to this blog post.  Stick to that subject line, with slight alterations as you continue your email communications, so journalists know what to look for when searching for your updates and responses in their inboxes.

For example, if your pitch is “St. Patrick’s Day Party Ideas,” keep those words in your subject line throughout your communications:
Confirming: Interview – St. Patrick’s Day Party Ideas
Photos – St. Patrick’s Day Party Ideas
Answers to your Qs – St. Patrick’s Day Party Ideas

Avoid meaningless subject lines such as “Following up.” Reporters are writing several stories daily. Don’t assume they’ll remember your client’s topic by spotting your name.

2. Say ‘No’ to Many Back & Fourths

Be efficient and mindful of their stuffed inbox. Give them all the information – press releases, links to photos, bios, headshots — in just one email. Otherwise, you are forcing them to dig through their inboxes to find your stuff and they are likely to miss something.

3. Follow the KISS Rule (Keep it Simple, Sweetie)

My rule of thumb is to write and organize an email to a reporter with the same care you’d give to writing your CEO. That means:

  • Short and succinct, with proper grammar and spelling.

  • Use bullets. Who has time to read lengthy paragraphs?

  • Give them only what THEY need to know. Avoid chitchat.

  • Confirm how many images are needed for their stories and send only your best.

  • Pay attention to their requests for high-resolution photographs. One reporter said her number one pet peeve was PR people ignoring her photo size requirements, such as 300 dpi or 1500 pixels. Double-check what you’re sending and save them time.

  • Don’t bombard them with extra stuff (aka work); if they need only one photo, send just one.

  • When providing a link to an online photo gallery, flag the best photos in your email.

  • Make sure all photos you provide have file names, so they’re not guessing about your content or forcing them to send you another email.

  • I include the organization name in all photo file names, so there is no doubt about attribution. For example a photo may say “The 606, Trust for Public Land.”
  • Speaking of labels, describe what’s in the photo, such as 01-CEO-John-Doe-Eating-IceCream-GroundHog-Party.jpg, 02-CEO-John-Doe-HeadShot.jpg.

4. Sew Just One Thread.

Keep all your conversation in one email thread. It becomes their guide to your ongoing communications. Instead of hitting reply use the email forward option, so they can easily spot where their latest conversation with you left off.

5. Send Calendar Invites?

Many reporters prefer receiving a meeting invitation from my personal online calendar. Ask if they want to be invited, so they get a reminder about their interview with your client.  The more ways you make life simpler, the better. Plus, you can see if they are paying attention when they accept the invitation, which ensures it appears on their calendar.

6. Don’t Forget…

Send a reminder email or call the day before. They’re nearly always grateful when I email, and I’ll pretty much always get a reply. If I don’t get an email response, I’ll call. And if they still forget about the interview, at least you have a paper trail if your client asks.

7. Double Check.

Before clicking the send button, put yourself in a reporter’s shoes, and ask whether your email gives him exactly what he needs or makes more work. Eliminate their busy work and they will return to you again and again for their next source.

Do you want to establish great working relationships with journalists? Please contact me here to set up a time to talk. 

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