Relationships Don’t Matter Most in Media Relations

January 29, 2009 · 41 comments


It seems to me there are a lot of well meaning people singing the same chorus around the blog-o-sphere on the topic of media relations. Here’s the gist:

“PR people have to spend time building relationships with the people they pitch or will pitch – even if they don’t pitch them for months down the road. It’s all about relationships.”

That’s hogwash and I’ll tell you why.

Building relationships doesn’t scale for many PR folks on the agency side. Many PR pros work on multiple clients spanning vastly different industries. We target our media outreach to different beat reporters at different types of publications within different geographies. We’re pitching far too many reporters to develop meaningful relationships with each of them. It’s humanly impossible.

Lots of PR folks on the agency side work on project-based clients. That means the new tourism client he’s pitching right now to travel editors and publications won’t be around in six months. Is he supposed to keep chatting with the 200 reporters he just pitched for the past few months, even though he may never get another client in the travel industry?

Building relationships before having to pitch reporters doesn’t work for him either. How is he supposed to build relationships ahead of time with fashion and family reporters for the children’s clothing client he’ll get next year that he doesn’t even know about yet?

So what does matter most? Interesting, well-crafted pitches that are relevant to the reporter’s beat and her readers are what reign supreme. I’ve single-handedly landed a couple thousand stories for my clients in the last few years and the vast majority of the reporters I worked with didn’t know me from Adam the first time they got a phone call or an email from me. Create great pitches, make sure they’re relevant by reading the reporter’s last five articles and then share your news.

Don’t get me wrong. Relationships are important. You should pursue them when valuable and possible. But they do NOT matter most. That’s easy for people at niche agencies focusing on one industry and pitching the same reporters over and over to forget. It’s also easy for social media types to forget that the vast majority of reporters are NOT on Twitter and that even those who are may not want PR people engaging them there.

P.S. Thanks to Todd Defren for writing recently on blogger relations. He asked an interesting question on that post and the comment I left on it gave me the idea for this post.

UPDATE: If you’re one of the few people who have misread this post and think I’m saying that relationships don’t matter at all, then please read this for some clarification.

*Image by Mike Baird.

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{ 5 trackbacks }

Create Your “Media Champions” to Increase Your Odds of Success
January 29, 2009 at 11:52 pm
Lifestyle and Entertainment Blog NYC AMP3 Public Relations » Blog Archive » Relationships DO Matter Most in Media Relations
January 30, 2009 at 1:54 pm
Cops 2.0 » Blog Archive » Information or relationship?
January 31, 2009 at 11:35 pm
The Art of the “Reverse Pitch”
February 3, 2009 at 8:18 pm
Relationship Reality: Stop Asking Who I Know at USA Today « Needling the Haystack
September 18, 2009 at 12:19 pm

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