How can I develop a relationship with a journalist?

Steve Blears Media Training Guide

How can I develop a relationship with a journalist?

If you are lucky enough to be featured. Follow these simple rules if you'd like to be asked back:

Share you expertise

A great way to develop a relationship with a journalist is to be useful and helpful, and share your knowledge and expertise. Help them by adding context and specialist knowledge about the topic or story in question.

Journalists need go-to experts to comment on and explain news stories. They get lots of repeat business from journalists and become valued contacts. 

How can I develop a relationship with a journalist? Engage with journalist's content

Journalists will share their stories on social media, particularly X (Twitter). If relevant to your area of expertise comment on them, and share them. 

However, don't just post "great article!" Add your expertise, context or clarity. Your insights can be invaluable to journalists looking for a deeper understanding of the subject.

Connect with them on social media and direct message them, offer your help and share your contact details.

Regularly watch, listen or read the work of journalists working in your sector. This will keep you on top of the news agenda and enable you to offer up-to-date insights on news stories around your expertise. 

How can I develop a relationship with a journalist?Industry Events

Some journalists specialise in just about every sector, particularly those working for industry magazines and websites. If you are attending a large industry conference or event, seek them out and introduce yourself.

Networking face-to-face with journalists allows you to tell them about your expertise and exchange contact information. Tell them you are happy for them to contact you at short notice.

Respond Promptly

Journalists work on tight deadlines. Don't delay, when they get in touch make yourself available, even at short notice. They'll thank you and remember you as someone who can help when they are in a fix and need to stand up a story. This will make you a go-to source for future stories. 

How can I develop a relationship with a journalist? Tailor your pitches

Choose a journalist relevant to your topic or story.

When pitching, be concise, and directly align your story with the journalist's focus. This shows you respect their time and understand their audience.

Save your own time by emailing a short outline of the story or idea you want to share. This can just be a couple of lines with a message asking them to contact you if they are interested. Add some detail if you have examples, case studies or locations to feature. Don't be disheartened if you get no response. Your idea might not been needed, but you'll be on the radar.

Some PRs will favour writing a press release, but a more direct approach with a call, social media DM or text message is often more successful.

Remember, press releases sent by email or post often end up in a catch-all pile or email folder where they must compete with dozens of others submitted that day.

Offer exclusives 

Giving a journalist the "first scoop" elevates your value as a source and encourages them to come to you first in the future. 

Make sure your idea is scoop-worthy, such stories tend to include strong elements of surprise, whistle-blowing, wrongdoing, and public interest.

For a better understanding of the news media read our blog: How does the news work?

Once the story is published it's wise to answer other inquiries from journalists.

Avoid blatant promotion 

During live interviews, resist the urge to plug your brand or services. Journalists and audiences view this as blatant self-promotion. This is a short-sighted technique that will end any budding relationship with a journalist or media outlet.

Never try to sell your business or service during a live TV interview and never use an interview as an opportunity to repeat or plug the name of your brand or business. 

Your PR team may suggest that you try this, however, this is seen as blatant promotion and broadcast journalists dislike this. People who plug and rarely asked back.

Give them permission to call you

After an interview, let the journalist know you've enjoyed the experience, offer your mobile number and tell them you would like to appear in the future.  

Stay in touch

Maintain regular contact, take their number and email address. When a topical issue around your expertise appears in the news, drop them a message straight away with a brief outline of your professional viewpoint on the story.

Don't be disheartened if you contact a journalist and they don't get back to you. They are busy people, you'll be on their radar.

Offer multimedia assets

Offering high-quality photos, videos, or infographics can save journalists time and make your story more appealing.

Be transparent and honest 

Always be upfront with journalists about any limitations or conflicts of interest concerning your expertise or your story. Transparency builds trust.

Warning!  If invited on air NEVER try to repeatedly plug or mention your organisation, product or business. Your PR team may suggest you do this, however, this is likely to end your career as an on air expert before it has started. You're very unlikely to be asked back.

This is seen as product placement by all broadcasters including the BBC:

"The BBC will not accept product placement on its UK Public Services, and Public Services must not endorse or promote any other organisation, or its products, services, trade marks, activities or opinions."

What is the best way to handle a request for a follow-up interview?

If you've appeared on TV to discuss a news story it's common for that, or other news outlets to get in touch to ask you to re-appear. Give them a swift answer and make yourself available. Use the steps above with all your interactions with journalists.

How can I provide additional materials or resources to a journalist (like a press kit)?

If you have a PR team working for your organisation, this will be their responsibility. If you don't have a PR team ask the interested journalist what additional resources you can help with.

You could offer data, facts and figures gathered by your organisation or suggest case studies and other people to interview.

The format you supply it in is up to you, but it's wise to fact-check any information you share as you'll be quoted as the source.

Press Gazette: How to pitch to journalists

Tip!  Journalists have access to news archives and research databases, so don't get involved in finding 3rd party information for them that's readily available online.