How to build relationships with the media: a journalist’s perspective

In the first of The Whitehouse Consultancy’s webinar series, ‘How to Cut Through the Noise’, a panel of political experts, journalists and press officers came together to discuss crisis recovery amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Amongst the guest speakers was Nick Carding, Senior Correspondent at the HSJ. Here, he gives Whitehouse exclusive insider insight into the best ways to cut through the noise and make yourself invaluable to a journalist: :

  • Tip 1: Trash the 100+ press list. Tailor your list, approach and pitch.

“The first mistake companies make is not checking who they are pitching their story to. It can feel like many companies often just draw up a gigantic list of media contacts to send their press release to. It’s better to research a much more realistic group of media companies that you think would be most likely to be interested in publishing your story based on their existing content, and try to tailor your pitch to each of them individually.”

  • Tip 2: Be old-fashioned, give us a ring!

“Pick up the phone and give us a call. We get so many emails from PRs, but we do not get that many phone calls. So rather than email the press release or story pitch to your journalist of choice, please pick up the phone which is much more likely to get our attention, simply because we get so many emails we don’t have the time to read them all thoroughly. An underestimated tip.”

  • Tip 3: But call us before, not after, you send your pitch or press release

“There is not much point in emailing and then placing a follow up phone call. If a journalist reads your email and does not respond it most likely means he’s not interested and has no plans to cover it – and receiving a follow up call about it is both useless and annoying. It’s better to make that call before you send the email rather than afterwards.”

  • Tip 4: Become our friend.

“Make sure that your spokespeople are happy to speak to us whether on or off the record, and not just about the story that you happen to be pitching to us at the time – make sure your spokespeople are happy to invest time into building a relationship with journalists. On many occasions at HSJ we have relied on stories that we get “gossiping” or having informal chats with people. Often the most beneficial relationship for us to have is just to be able to ring people and have an informal conversation about what’s going on in their company or in the industry generally. It’s about building that level of trust – even if the relationship doesn’t yield a story about your company from the start, just by building that trusted relationship it becomes a lot easier for the journalist to find ways to get publicity for the company in question.”

  • Tip 5: Earn our trust – don’t oversell.
  • “When you’re pitching a story to journalists, make sure you are completely honest about what you are trying to promote. Do not overpromise. Many journalists have fallen into the trap of believing that a product or story is “unique” or “groundbreaking” based on the press release, and written about it, only to then be questioned and told the story is a sham. Do not try and make your product or story sound better than it is; it will usually get found out and that means the journalist is much less likely to trust you again for future stories.”

The Whitehouse team are experts in the impact of global crises, providing crisis communications, risk management and public affairs advice to a wide range of clients, not only in the United Kingdom, but also across the member states of the European Union. For more information, please contact our Chair, Chris Whitehouse, at

The Whitehouse Consultancy’s next webinar, ‘How Trade Associations Can Help Your Campaign’, will take place on 9 June at 10.30. To register your attendance or find out more, email