In its recent Global PR Survey for 2020, Prezly PR Software reports that 92% of PR professionals say strong relationships are critical to their success, with their best results coming from contacts with whom they had nurtured a good relationship. 

I wholeheartedly agree that strong relationships with the media are important. But are they everything to a PR pro? Not exactly.

For starters, yes, strong relationships with journalists are a must. In the past, they’ve even been touted as the most important thing a good PR person brings to the table. It wasn’t uncommon, if you were applying for a senior level PR position, that you’d be asked who your top five reporter contacts were and if they’d be ready to write about the company. So much came down to the rolodex of names. But, these days, your “top five” doesn’t mean as much as you’d think. 

In our current media landscape, journalists change beats and publications all the time. On top of that, there are 100x more outlets to tell your story. So if I were to be asked whether I know five reporters who would pick up the phone and know who I am, the answer is easy. Of course I do – we all do. But that’s not really the point. What are the chances those five reporters would be a fit for any given story with a client? Slim. That’s because every client is different and every announcement is different. There’s no one-size-fits-all in PR. Professionals must tailor our outreach from one pitch to the next, and not count on a few select reporters to be the right people to target for every story. 

That said, we should constantly be nurturing our media relationships across the board. PR pros build trust by researching reporters before sending an email or placing a phone call. This calls for understanding their beats, what they’ve covered in the past and what they’re interested in covering moving forward. By continually doing our due diligence, we will develop a reputation for being reliable and providing value. This means they’re more likely to consider our story idea and think of us when they need an expert for something they’re writing. 

Media relationships are absolutely key, but it’s about more than the who’s who in your rolodex. To find success in the long term, PR pros must be able to consistently find new contacts and build new relationships on an ongoing basis. PR people who hang their hat on their core circle of media contacts and avoid growing their networks will soon miss out on new contacts that could help tell their client’s story.