News and insights • Posted on 31 January 2024

6 crucial steps to building trust and credibility with the media

In the fast-paced world of public relations (PR), establishing and maintaining trust with the media is crucial for success. But when PR pros are faced with an important press release or feature idea and a vast landscape full of busy journalists, how do they make sure they’re not adding to the noise, but rather, building credibility as a skilled and reliable PR professional? Media relations manager Ellie Byrne, at our sister agency Scriba PR, delves into the strategies and nuances of how PR specialists cultivate meaningful and rewarding relationships with the media.

In an era where information flows rapidly, PR professionals must navigate the intricate web of journalists, bloggers, and influencers to ensure their client's message is not only heard but also presented accurately. This challenge is intensified by the fact there are approximately six PR professionals for every journalist, highlighting the need for strategic and thoughtful communication amid the deluge of emails, direct messages, and calls that journalists must sift through to find relevant stories and spokespeople.

With the ratio of PR professionals to journalists reaching such levels, it's evident the competition for a journalist's attention is fierce. Journalists often find themselves drowning in a sea of press releases, story pitches, and interview requests. In this environment, the onus is on PR professionals to rise above the noise and stand out as credible, reliable, and respectful partners in the media landscape.

1. Know the audience: do research

Understanding journalists’ preferences and beats (the subject areas they specialise in) is fundamental to effective media relations. PR professionals delve into the journalist's body of work, identify their areas of expertise, the topics they cover, and the tone they employ to make sure our pitches align with their interests. This increases the likelihood of engagement and bolsters our reputation as an invaluable source of information.

This thorough research ensures that our client’s news, stories and ideas are relevant to that particular set of media, and allows us to advise the best course of PR action.

2. Craft targeted pitches: quality over quantity

Journalists are bombarded with countless pitches daily, making it vital to stand out from the crowd. Instead of adopting a blanket approach, we personalise pitches based on the journalist's past work and current interests. Highlighting the relevance of a story to their beat increases the chances of capturing their attention – a well-researched, targeted pitch is more likely to be considered than a generic mass email.

3. The need to be quick and responsive: time is of the essence

Journalists often work against tight deadlines, and being responsive is crucial for building trust. Once we have identified an appropriate opportunity and established contact, we need to respond promptly to queries and requests for additional information. This is where a strong relationship between a PR agency and the client comes into play. Timeliness not only demonstrates commitment to the opportunity but also showcases reliability which is essential for, in turn, building relationships between journalists and clients. 

4. Offer expertise: being a valuable resource is crucial

Being a reliable source of information within the PR industry is a key aspect of building trust with the media. When journalists are on a tight schedule, they appreciate experts who can provide accurate and insightful commentary on relevant topics. This means we always keep an eye out for journalist requests on different platforms and respond with top-level information about our clients and clear reasoning as to why they can offer insight.

When we have news or a story to pitch, being proactive in offering the client’s expertise to relevant journalists, whether it's through interviews, background information, or exclusives, is crucial. Building a reputation as a go-to resource enhances credibility and increases the likelihood of media coverage.

5. Respect journalists’ time: don’t make them wait

Journalists have demanding schedules, and respecting their time is paramount. If we promise information, we need to deliver it promptly and avoid making journalists wait for responses, quotes, or additional materials. Being reliable in this aspect not only strengthens relationships but also positions us as a PR specialist who values the journalist's time and deadlines.

6. Building genuine relationships

Establishing trust with the media goes beyond transactional interactions. Therefore, attending industry events, connecting on social media, and building meaningful relationships with journalists are vital in the PR industry. We like to engage in conversations that go beyond pitching the client's story when it’s appropriate. There’s nothing worse than being stopped halfway through a time-sensitive story to be asked how a journalist’s day is going – we aren’t those people. But, when the time is right, demonstrating a sincere interest in the journalist's work and building a rapport can pay dividends in the long run.

Building trust and credibility with the media requires a combination of strategic thinking, genuine engagement, and impeccable professionalism by PR agencies. By doing research, crafting targeted pitches, being responsive, offering expertise, respecting time, and building genuine relationships, we establish a solid foundation for successful media relations. If done right, PR should see you gain a large share of voice in your specific vertical, as well as become a true influencer in your sphere; expert on the challenges your industry is facing, blowing your competition out of the water.

Interested in exploring how your business could benefit from PR? If you’re an existing client, reach out to your account manager, who’ll be happy to kick start the conversation. Alternatively, drop us a line and we’ll get back to you to explore all avenues of opportunity.

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Written by Alice MacLaverty

Resident wordsmith Alice is dedicated to creating top-quality content that turns heads, builds audiences, gets clicks, and makes money.

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