At WordWrite, we make our relationships with journalists a top priority. As public relations professionals, we know that finding the right journalist for the right story is key to getting results for our clients.

The other week, I had the opportunity to catch up with Joyce Gannon, business reporter with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. I’m sharing tips from her in this post in the interest of improving results for you and your organization, and for the journalists you hope to reach

Two talkingThe conversation with Joyce started with a news release I had sent her with a quick note asking how she has been and thanking her for offering to include the information in an upcoming story. To my surprise, she asked to meet over coffee to discuss how PR can support journalists in the digital age.

When we met, I was very appreciative of her time, so I made sure to use it wisely to gain better insights into what she covers and how I can help.

During our conversation, she brought up important media relations reminders that are valuable to anyone working in PR. Here’s a quick roundup of tips directly from a business reporter.

1. Read, read, read

Joyce stressed the importance of reading the paper or your targeted outlets every day. The foundation of marketing is knowing your target audience. In PR, one of our target audiences is the media (and by extension, their readers). The best way to learn about this audience is to follow what they are reporting and who they are covering. Also keeping track of their most popular articles is a great way to know what resonates most with their audience. Reporters will appreciate that you’re trying to help them.

2. Know who to pitch

As you become more familiar with your target publications, it will be easier to determine which journalists cover which topics. And if you don’t know, Joyce warned against sending the same pitch to numerous reporters in the same newsroom because it’s counterproductive and inconvenient.

On social media, Joyce and I agreed that it’s easy to find out what reporters are writing about and what interests them. If you’re lucky enough to meet a reporter, be sure to ask them what sorts of topics they are looking to cover. And by sharing the type of projects you’re working on, the reporter might offer names of some of her colleagues who would be interested in those stories. In addition, check out whether the reporter has an active Twitter or LinkedIn and be sure to follow and engage with the reporter on those news and professional based platforms.

3. Know when to pitch

My goal for the meeting was to get to know Joyce better, so one of the questions I asked is the best time to send pitches. While she prefers to review pitches in the morning, we talked about the staff scheduling at the Post-Gazette. Some reporters come in early and leave early while others come in later and leave later. For this reason, make sure that you’re pitching the reporter when and how they want to be pitched. How do you find out? Ask! Introduce yourself and show the reporter that you want to be as helpful as possible.

4. It’s okay to follow up, if you do it right

Reporters are under pressure these days to write breaking news stories for both print and online platforms. For this reason, Joyce mentioned that she sees emails coming in, but sometimes she needs to put them off when she’s on deadline. With new stories and pitches popping up by the second, she confirmed that it is okay to send a brief follow up note. However, be sure to not overdo it. She recommended following up once after 24-48 hours or so.

5. Add a personalized note

Joyce was very appreciative that I didn’t just send over a blanket press release, but instead, I added a personalized note. Just as we grow our relationships with friends, family and colleagues, don’t be afraid to get to know the human on the other end of your email, even if you’ve never met. At WordWrite, we work with reporters across the country, so we include detailed notes in our files to ensure we’re strengthening our relationships, not starting over every time we pitch.

My meeting with Joyce confirmed that the relations in public relations is still crucial when it comes to working with journalists, even in the digital age. We not only talked about business, but we also chatted about our families, past travel trips to Europe and our career paths and goals. If your role consists of reaching out to the media, spend time every day getting to know this audience. Over time, your relationships with reporters will strengthen, keeping you and your clients top of mind for their stories.

Do you have a media relations pet peeve or suggestion that PR professionals should follow? Share your story in the comments below!