How To Build And Leverage Relationships With Journalists

Alex Nicol, Content Specialist @ Powerful Outreach

28 May 2017

The press landscape has changed a lot in recent years, but one thing remains the same: journalists are still the gatekeepers of the press and are an absolutely crucial part of any successful press campaign.

In the new age of digital press, building and leveraging relationships with journalists is possible for any business that has an interesting story to tell. The variables are all in the approach that public relations specialists take to connecting with journalists. A successful approach pairs accurate research with diligent outreach and a long-term vision that brings benefits to the PR agencies, it’s client base, and the journalists. Let’s take a closer look at each stage of the relationship building process.

1. Research

The first stage is always to find journalists in your target niche. Public relations specialists will all have their own research processes, and all are totally valid as long as they are effective. The goal with journalist research is to build a large digital address book and pack it with as much information about each journalist as is relevant and as it changes over time.  

In order to build out a contact ‘hit list’, you want to have a couple things figured out. First, where are you going to collect the data? Google Sheets becomes limiting as you add more names and learn more about each journalist. There are some interesting alternatives for storage and research here that are worth a check. Buzzstream, for example, let’s you set alerts for industry niche’s, research and store journalists, bloggers, and influencers contact information, and even automate a personalized outreach plan if you are working at scale.

Second, where are you going to conduct your research? Google is the best place to start with, as is LinkedIn and Twitter. Another interesting research tool is HARO, which connects you as a source to journalists looking for an opinion to cite in a story.

2. Outreach

The next stage is the outreach stage, and outreach specialists know this stage is governed by personalization, consistency, and quality.


  • Personalization: You want to approach journalists in the most unassuming way at first. For example, if you read some of their articles during the research stage, why not write them an email – to their professional email address – with a comment about you enjoyed their take in the article. This puts your name on their radar and increases the chances of a collaboration down the road. Once initial lines of communication have been established, you can inquire after lead times and what sorts of future stories they are working on, read and distribute their work on your channels, and form connections on social media platforms.
  • Consistency: The other pillar of PR is to be consistent in outreach efforts. This is not something that should be automated either, so it does require regular check-ins and messaging from an outreach specialist to keep their clients top of mind for journalists.

  • Quality: The point of journalist outreach should be to share something of value, something of quality. And since official press releases no longer carry as much weight as they used to, public relations specialists need to find as many interesting value propositions as they can for each client and use them to pitch stories to relevant journalists when appropriate. Getting the quality down pat might take some time, but once it is locked in it can help catapult a press campaign from 0 to 100.


The Proof is in the Pudding

There is no single formula for building and leveraging relationships with journalists. It often comes down to intangibles like personality, timing, and the quality of the message being conveyed. In fact, the real x-factor to forging long-lasting relationships with journalists is to continually satisfy their hunger for new and interesting stories that alter the landscape of the industry they cover. Leading outreach specialists are able to tease out interesting value propositions about their clients business and tell an interesting story. The ingredients are usually there to satisfy the journalists’ hunger for a new story.

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