At the individual-practitioner level, are two basic approaches to media relations; most people bias into one camp or another, and understanding the pros and cons of each can help you pitch better (if you work in PR) or get better results from your team (if you manage the PR function).
Some practitioners are highly relationship driven; they’re at their best when they’re working with reporters with whom they have built up a trusted, long-term relationship. Within that relationship, they can accomplish great things on behalf of their clients.
Other practitioners rely far less on relationships and far more on over-the-top writing and pitching skills. Within this group, relationships with the media are fine, but lack of one doesn’t mean it’s a problem to get top-tier coverage.
Most practitioners use a mix of both approaches, but I’ve found colleagues tend to spend most time in one camp or the other over time.
If you’re a highly relationship-driven practitioner, it’ll force you to take a more strategic approach to your pitching — your coin of the realm consists of reporter relationships far more than pitches, and you don’t want to damage the relationships. If you’re a solo practitioner of this sort and have a client demanding voluminous hits for questionable stuff news, then the best approach may be to farm it out to someone who’s more of a pure pitchman.
On the other hand, if you’re more of a PowerPitcher™, then you fundamentally know that sometimes, you’re going to have a story that’s too subtle or too complex to get a lot of traction on because you’re essentially talking to strangers, and strangers don’t have a lot of time or patience.
If you’re a solo practitioner and this is your strength, you trade strategic hits for raw volume sometimes, or partner with someone who’s much more relationship driven in their approach and has experience in the client’s space.
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