Making Media Relations Connections

I made the move from Boston to SF four months ago and couldn’t be happier to be in the hub for technology and healthcare innovation. The SHIFT SF office is located right in the thick of it all in downtown SF. As such, I had the opportunity to attend a few events from last week’s J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference (one of the biggest healthcare industry events), including STAT News’s daily “Read Outs,” which took place just a few blocks away from our office.

During these 30-minute events, three of STAT’s top biopharma reporters, Rebecca Robbins, Adam Feuerstein and Damian Garde, recapped the day’s happenings. These reporters, who are basically celebrities for anyone in the healthcare space, addressed a crowd of 30 people and held a casual conversation about JPM, opening the floor to questions, comments, jokes and more.

As an AE who’s day-to-day consists of securing media coverage and building relationships with reporters, sitting 10 feet away from these “celebrities” reminded me that they are just like everyone else! And just like anyone else, it is critical for us to establish relationships with them that show we are a resource for them. Here are some ways how to build great media relations with relevant press:

Check out Recent Coverage

The last thing any PR professional wants is to be featured in a reporter’s “I don’t cover this, stop reaching out” tweet. It may sound obvious, but in the busyness of our day-to-day, sometimes we can forget to take the time to see what a reporter recently covered. Doing so can help us ensure we picked the right target from our media list and that our pitches are tweaked to address their specific interests.

Don’t Just Reach Out With Pitches

See an interesting article in your Twitter feed, morning news scans or in a newsletter? Let the reporter know! Just like we enjoy getting complements on our work, reporters do to. Taking a few minutes to reply to a tweet or write up a quick email telling a reporter you enjoyed their article can go a long way.

Pick Up the Phone

Picking up the phone can be scary but it is a quick and easy way to build a relationship with a reporter. If you’re lucky enough to find their phone number listed in Gorkana or on their signature, give them a call to follow up on a pitch. Digging through emails can be distracting, but once you have the reporter on the phone, you likely have their undivided attention. If the pitch you sent them is not a fit, find out what they are working on and what stories they need sources for. If your client fits into what they are working on, great! If not, this shows the reporter that you are willing to work with them and the next time they need a source, they might just reach out.

Meet Face to Face

At the end of the day, nothing beats meeting in-person. Sit down, drink coffee and find out what reporters are working on, interested in or their biggest pet peeves about working with PR people. SF is also a major journalism hub which means there are a lot of opportunities to book meetings with reporters. SHIFT encourages these in-person meetings by rewarding those who take the initiative. If you book a handful of meetings in a certain city, the company will cover your flight and hotel! Worried about getting manager’s approval? Not an issue at SHIFT as managers know these meetings are valuable for long-term relationship building for both you and the agency!

As the new year picks up and client announcements, news, metrics and more take over, it is easy to get wrapped into the day-to-day of our jobs. Taking time to focus on building relationships with reporters, especially those beyond the confines of your computer screen or the phone, are critical. Ultimately, this only helps you as a PR professional and ensures your clients are making headlines all year long.

Caela Shay
Account Executive, Healthcare 

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