Securing earned media is more challenging than ever. Journalists receive hundreds of pitches per day while being tasked with creating more content under tighter deadlines. PR people need to find a way to cut through the noise to deliver results for their clients and/or companies.

In a perfect world, the cream rises to the top and the best stories garner the best results, but the truth is that many pitches are left unopened. The best way to make sure your pitch gets read is still to have a preexisting relationship with the journalist you’re pitching. Here are a few tips for building and maintaining a working relationship with media:

Get familiar with their work

Don’t pitch anyone without familiarizing yourself with their work. This does not mean skim the headlines and read a few paragraphs. One of the biggest compliments you can pay journalists is to engage with their work and pitch with an informed perspective. It’s very easy to say that you loved a piece, but more memorable to interact with an article. This evolves the conversation beyond “saw you covered X, thought you might cover Y” to a situation where a journalist can see that you’re following his or her work. If you’re pitching someone for the first time, you can build a more concrete link between previous coverage and your current angle. If you’ve already worked with them, maybe you don’t even have anything to pitch, but just had a follow up question or a particular section you liked. Reading a journalist’s work is the best way to start and keep up a productive dialogue.

Follow them on Twitter

Following media on Twitter is a must. It is the best way to get a feel for their voice – are they all business or do they enjoy joking around – and their preferences – do they hate to be phone pitched? Probably. In the best-case scenario, you may see journalists tweet out stories they are working on, or tips on how to pitch them, but even if this doesn’t happen, you will glean key information that will help you down the road. I recently saw a journalist I was working with tweet a quote from one my favorite books, and we’ve been going back and forth on recommendations ever since.

Remember they are human

This shouldn’t need to be said, but put yourself in their shoes. Do you like receiving outside communication that was clearly spammed to a hundred people? No, if you reply at all it’s only to say unsubscribe. Personalizing pitches is key. If a journalist asks you something, reply as quickly as possible. Try and anticipate their needs – send assets before they ask. Have a quote ready when appropriate. Every PR person and every person in media is just trying to do their job and do it well. Be the PR person who makes their lives easier – it’s as simple as that.

Don’t treat a friendly as a sounding board

One of the most common PR errors is to establish “friendlies” and immediately start pitching them everything under the sun. You should never expect journalists to cover a sub-par angle or even a good story unrelated to their beat just because you have a good rapport. Your friendlies should see your name pop in their inboxes and immediately know your note is relevant to them and worth the time to read. There is a big difference between trying to leverage friendlies and trying to add value to their work. Journalists know the difference.

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