4 Proven Ways to Build Relationships with Journalists

By Rudi Davis Published: 22 September, 2020 Last updated: February 17th, 2022 at 1:46 pm

two men shaking hands

It’s pretty simple: stronger relationships with journalists mean greater chances of winning earned media. 

For a Canadian startup like yours, having strong bonds with a prominent industry journalist makes life much easier when you’re pitching and executing a PR strategy. Many startups are unsure how to build relationships with journalists. 

So, to help you on your way, here are the tried and tested methods that our media outreach team swear by, and a few trusty examples.

Engage with their content

First things first, get to know the journalists you want to build relationships with by engaging with their content:

  • Start commenting underneath articles that they write. Explain what you liked about the article and share any knowledge or insights you have on the topic. Make sure to include your actual name (not a username). Upload a photo, so they can put a name to a face. And if possible, include your company name.
  • Any journalist worth their salt will be on Twitter. Start engaging with them by sharing or commenting on their posts. Continue the conversation by sharing any content with them that you think they would find interesting. 

James McLeod of the Financial Post, for instance, regularly writes and retweets articles around the Canadian startup scene with a special focus on high-growth tech startups. Regular shares and likes from business council Canadian Innovators led to McLeod retweeting a guest article they produced for the FP:

Network at events and host your own

Even these days, nothing really beats a face-to-face introduction when building a relationship. And the best place to do this is at industry events. But be strategic to get the most out of your attendance:

  • Before the event, research the attendee list by company name. Research all attendees working for publications to find out which are relevant to you. You’ll then know who the most suitable reporters are to network with. And you’ll also be familiar with some of their recent work which you can drop into conversation.
  • Try and combine this with another PR win. Most events accept applications for speaker and workshop roles on their websites. Landing a speaker role and being featured on the program will really boost your profile and make networking much easier. Read these tips on how to land a speaking spot at a conference.

Another option is to host your own events, including workshops, round-table discussions and hackathons. These are great ways to build up and interact with an engaged community. But more importantly, you can also use it as a reason to invite journalists by offering them positions on judging panels or speaking roles. 

The Canadian tech startup conference True North is run by accelerator Communitech. True North has grown to become one of Canada’s most sought-after tech conventions and winning Communitech mentions in the likes of TechCrunch and Entrepreneur. 

Nurture every single reply – even the rejections

Whenever a journalist accepts a pitch or writes up a press release you’ve sent, send them a brief thank you email and comment on what you liked about the piece. Then mention in your email that you’re always available as an expert source on the subject in the future.   

With rejections, receiving a “thanks but no thanks” always feels a little disheartening. But you should view the fact the influencer replied to you as a positive, seeing as:

  • You now know that this person is at least open to considering your pitches.
  • You’ve initiated a two way dialogue which you can build on. Judge the tone of the reply for whether you feel it’s appropriate to send a follow up to enquire if there’s any specific subject or content that this person is interested in.
  • You can refer to your previous correspondence when sending your next pitch.

Keep the conversation going

Once you’ve met a journalist, been introduced or had a pitch accepted, it’s vital you keep the conversation going. Here are some things to consider:

  • Communicate via email, rather than social media, as it is far more personable.
  • Try and communicate with them about once a month. Find a reason to contact them, such as sending a pitch or sharing any insights you have on a news story that they’re covering.
  • Be patient. If you don’t get many replies don’t bombard them with chasers. One will do. If you hear nothing back for months, it could be a sign to move on and focus on building relationships with other journalists.

So by investing a bit of time and energy in the right places, building relationships with journalists becomes very accessible. And once you’ve built those relationships, you’ll be much more successful at winning press coverage. On top of that, you may also find yourself in the ultimate position where journalists come to you as their go-to source.