Building strong relationships with media is critical to the success of any PR campaign. In today’s competitive media landscape, it’smore important than ever to develop and maintain strong relationships with journalists, editors, and content producers.

I started my career in news, working both for a newspaper as well as a local TV station, and it provided a fantastic blueprint for how hard journalists work and the incredible pressure and stress they can be under to produce under deadlines. After all, journalists are people — and it’s smart to keep that in the back of your mind when you’re selling something to them because at the end of the day, we are selling something: stories.

Here are five tips to help build — and maintain — strong media relationships:  

1. Remember that everyone makes mistakes

But ask yourself, would you rather have an email arrive in your inbox with an authentic mistake, or a mail merge mistake that starts with “Hi X, hope you’re well”? While it’s sometimes easier to mail merge, it’s impersonal and mistakes while mail merging raise a red flag to the reporter, because they know immediately they’re part of a mass outreach list. Be authentic, conversational and personally engage with media in 1:1 correspondence.

2. Research, research and more research

Before reaching out to any media outlets, it’s imperative to research and understand their audience and the type of content they typically cover. This enables you to tailor your pitches and messaging, making it be more relevant and appealing to journalists you’re targeting. Identifying the right contact at a given publication/outlet greatly increases the likelihood of your pitch striking a chord.

3. Be timely and responsive

Journalists operate on tight deadlines and often work on multiple stories simultaneously. When you receive an inquiry or request from a journalist, respond quickly, even if it’s just to acknowledge that you’ve received their email and will get back to them shortly. 

4. Build authentic relationships 

This part involves more than just sending emails and pitching (selling!) stories. Take time to get to know the journalists you’re targeting, attend industry events they would potentially be at, and engage with them on social media. For example, if you work in the consumer packaged goods industry, attend Expo West, walk the floor and potentially set up an informal meeting to plant an initial relationship building seed! Actually read what reporters write and send a note telling them why you liked their story and even share their stories on your/your company’s platforms. If you can establish a genuine connection, journalists are more likely to be receptive to your pitches — and at the very least will trust the information you provide.

5. Provide value

Journalists are always looking for interesting and timely stories that will resonate with their audience — and often need to meet a minimum threshold of stories produced online per day. To build lasting media relationships, it’s essential to consistently provide valuable and relevant content. This could include sharing exclusive insights or data, providing expert commentary (thought leadership!) on industry trends, or offering interviews/meetings with high-profile executives or special events. When you consistently deliver value, journalists will view you as a valuable resource and be more likely to come to you, the PR pro, for your insights on future stories.

Building strong media relationships requires a combination of authenticity, transparency, research and value — all of which starts with a strong story. Implementing these best practices can help you establish long-lasting relationships with journalists that will benefit your client(s) and help you achieve your PR goals.