Since March 2020, the pandemic has changed the PR industry worldwide and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. According to recent research, many PR professionals feel confident about the value they have been providing during the pandemic. Nevertheless, these people are also dealing with more burnout and stress than ever before.
According to the same survey, nearly three-quarters of respondents (73%) are confident in the value of public relations in the face of COVID-19. 59% are confident in their ability to work effectively during the pandemic. However, as revealed by 57% of respondents, clients have changed their PR strategies to adapt to COVID-19. Moreover, according to 49% of the people surveyed, PR budgets have been cut by 49%.
One of the biggest challenges PR professionals are facing in their attempts to return to how they were operating pre-COVID is reaching contacts they had previously made. The reason for this is that many relationships they had spent years carefully building have gotten disconnected, off-track, paused, or broken during the last one and a half years. Your contact might be on a different platform now. Or maybe they’re simply covering a different beat or not engaging in the same way they used to. Either way, you might find yourself having to go back to square one when trying to build your media database.
Many PR professionals previously had a sizable contact list and, rather than starting from the beginning of the media relations process, their solution is to try and reconnect with their pre-COVID contacts.
However, just because you have access to your pre-COVID contacts doesn’t mean that your media outreach will be a piece of cake. After all, in a crisis, the media deploys staff resources swiftly and dramatically across the board in the last one and a half years. There has also been a more significant focus on COVID-related issues. With the ongoing financial pressures, there is a good chance that a person who was covering a particular field for a platform just a few years ago has a different focus and possibly even a different address.
For this reason, you can’t take it for granted that you will be able to reach everyone on your media list. Even so, don’t get too worked up about losing contacts and having to start over. On the contrary, you should be optimistic about the situation. With the right attitude, you can save your most beneficial media relationships and even build new ones.
In this article, we have compiled a few tips on reconnecting with journalists in this new media landscape. These tips will help whether you’re rebuilding an existing contact list or building a new list from scratch.
How To (Re)Connect With Journalists
1) Always look on the bright side
Many journalists have been shuffled around and assigned new beats, both within and outside their old platform. However, learning that an old contact has relocated, shouldn’t be a negative thing.
Even in a new setting, it’s good to have a familiar face. You can easily reconnect with someone from your previous network. Once you’ve reconnected, this person can help you reach a new audience if they cover a new beat on their old platform. Even better, they can introduce you to a whole new team of fellow journalists if their addresses have changed. In either case, it’s important to keep a positive attitude!
In order to do this successfully:
- Start with a simple “hello” to see how things go: This is an excellent way to know if the journalist is still working for the same publication and covering the same topics as before. The contact information may be outdated if they have moved on to another publication. If this is the case, you can update their information and let them know that you would like to keep in touch.
- Keep the conversation friendly and casual: It is crucial to keep in mind that the primary goal of this interaction is to determine whether or not this specific journalist contact is still helpful.
- Maintain your existing relationship: You’ve already established a relationship with this contact. Nevertheless, you need to make it clear that, regardless of whether they are in the same publication or at a new media platform, you are still interested in collaborating with them. If they are at a new platform, they will most likely also introduce you to their new colleagues.
- Recognize their unique audience’s needs: If their content is now focused on a new audience, you need to make sure you understand the needs of the media professional and their audience. Additionally, you need to make it clear that you want to help provide relevant information that will benefit them.
2) Build new relationships with media based on research
Unfortunately, there is a possibility that you will not find all of your old contacts still working in the journalism industry. Nevertheless, there are always new journalists out there and new relationships waiting to be formed. Regardless of how the situation might make you feel, you still need to create new bonds and build bridges with new people covering the topics that matter to you.
This will most likely involve some phone calls and personalized email pitches. It is impossible to go into the situation assuming that everything is in the same place as before the pandemic. You need to make sure you know whom you are pitching to and what topics they cover.
Some ways that you can do this effectively include:
- Examine the reporter’s previous work to ensure that your story will be a good fit
- Find them on social media for a more in-depth look at their professional experience
- Include data and statistics in your email pitch
- Make it clear that you’re interested in them covering your story, not someone else
Before reaching out to journalists with your pitch, do your research to ensure you have something they’d be interested in based on what you know about their work. After all, successful pitching is not about you; it’s about them.
Agencies like Pressfarm can build curated media lists to help you connect with the best journalists in your niche. In addition to this, Pressfarm is skilled at creating the kind of quality content that will encourage these journalists to take you seriously. With a winning press release, a few engaging guest posts, and a modern, eye-catching media kit, you can make a splash with your brand.
Beyond creating this content, the team at Pressfarm goes one step further to distribute this content widely so that it reaches your target audience. In order to maximize your outreach, Pressfarm submits this content to media outlets, startup directories, and professional networks. This distribution strategy is designed to boost your online visibility and ensure you rank in relevant search results. With this strategy, your brand should feature in organic searches across search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing!
By partnering with the PR specialists, expert writers, and certified designers at Pressfarm, you can connect with the right media professionals when it matters most.
3) Connect with journalists in person
The aftermath of COVID has left an enormous void in social contact. However, with restrictions easing, it has now become relatively “easier” to meet face-to-face. While telephone conversations are acceptable, nothing beats a face-to-face conversation, regardless of what the topic is about.
While there is some debate over whether Zoom counts as face-to-face communication. It’s a hundred times easier to connect and form relationships when you can look someone in the eye. It is good to let people see you and put a face to the name they see in their inboxes.
Of course, there are still many solutions for those times when in-person meetings are impossible. The main point is that it’s easy to think that sending out emails is enough to start and retain a conversation. In reality, given that journalists receive up to hundreds of emails daily, sometimes calling or setting up a meeting is more efficient.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Always be aware of the types of stories and topics that a journalist has covered.
- Find the most convenient way to contact the journalists: a phone call, quick messenger chat, or a face-to-face video meeting.
- Suggest that you take a (virtual) or face-to-face coffee break next time your schedules allow.
- Initiate some small talk. Small talk can go a long way in this situation, as your main goal should be to set the stage for a long-term relationship. Even brief contact is preferable to no contact.
4) Create your own event
We all know that the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the events industry. The PR world has been hit particularly hard by the lack of promotional events, industry meetings, and other opportunities to get together, network, and make connections.
As the situation gradually returns to something resembling the pre-COVID era, there is a tremendous opportunity to get your name out there and attract attention. Organizing your event includes setting the agenda, putting yourself in the spotlight, and taking the initiative to get things back on track. Despite the lingering effects of COVID, many businesses, brands, journalists and media outlets are interested in participating in a well-organized event.
While planning an event is challenging, it can also help in the following ways:
- Makes a name for your brand in the local PR scene. If you step up and take the lead on organizing an event like this, journalists will notice. This is the highest level of attention you can get. It will give your future interactions with them instant credibility.
- It encourages the media to chase you, not the other way around. An exciting event creates the potential of journalists and other media professionals calling you and asking if they can cover your event. They want to help the local community as much as you do, so this is an excellent opportunity to collaborate.
- Increases the quantity and quality of clients for your firm. Potential clients will definitely take notice of your brand if you’re hosting an event that has created a buzz in the industry. Hosting a valuable event will give your brand social proof and win client trust.
5) Use a curated media database
This may seem like a shortcut, but it does increase efficiency.
First and foremost, any PR agency worth its salt will include a media contact database. For one, Pressfarm has put a lot of work into building a comprehensive media database of 1 million+ journalists, bloggers, and influencers. With this media database, you can connect with journalists across different industries. If you don’t feel like building your own media list, you can use a custom media list built personally by Pressfarm’s account executive. These media lists are designed to help you get in touch with the best journalists in your niche.
A media database is an excellent resource for finding contacts outside of your usual circles and connecting with journalists who aren’t on your radar. This broadens your reach and increases your chances of getting the coverage you want.
Media contact databases are an excellent way to supplement your existing media lists. However, whenever you’re reaching out to a media professional for the first time, you must remember that your best contacts are always those you build relationships with the traditional way. To build a positive long-term relationship with a journalist, you can comment on a story they’ve recently written. Inquire more about their beat, or – like we already suggested – invite them out to a face-to-face coffee.
It is evident that the pandemic has changed the game for industries worldwide. Even so, the “new normal” should not get in the way of trying to create meaningful connections with media contacts. Establishing high-quality relationships is an essential part of PR. For this reason, it is always necessary to invest time and resources in doing that.