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Building Relationships in Cyberspace

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  1. The Internet Helps in the Relationship-Building Process
  2. Relationship-Building Scenarios
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Cyber media relationships require the same components of trust as in the pre-Internet age — with a few twists. Deirdre Breakenridge offers some guidelines for how public relations professionals can forge stronger relationships with journalists.
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So, you're looking to build a relationship on the Internet? The best relationships, in my opinion, are built upon trust and respect. From youthful friendships to business partnerships to Internet communication, we have learned from the past that relationships take time and last only if mutual interests are supported and shared as the relationship progresses.

I asked a group of marketing professionals recently what they believed the ingredients are to a long-lasting relationship, and they pretty much gave me a textbook definition: mutual respect, trust, responsiveness, understanding, and so on. This same question was then asked regarding Internet relationships, and the group believed that the same rules of relationships apply.

Why, then, are relationships not lasting online? An area of particular interest that I have studied over the years is media relationships (before the Internet and now how the Internet can foster a better relationship between journalists and the PR executives). In my book Cyberbranding: Brand Building in the Digital Economy (Prentice Hall PTR, 2001), I devoted an entire section to cyber PR and building media relationships online—a focus that is an entire book. As a matter of fact, my next title with Prentice Hall is dedicated to this subject and will be published in the fall of 2002.

The Internet Helps in the Relationship-Building Process

When PR professionals began promoting companies online, did anyone think that building a relationship would be any different than what was already expected of their brands? Could the PR executives launching brands back in the year 2000 think that the journalists of online media were not interested in building relationships with trust, respect, and responsiveness? These media folks are looking for this and more when it comes to the Internet and communication with the PR professionals that they rely on for their story topics. The expectations are that much higher because the research or the knowledge that it takes to build the relationship is easier to obtain. Let's focus on what's required of the PR professional working with the media online, offline, or in any forum. PR professionals must do the following to build relationships with the media:

  • Know the media outlet and review its editorial calendar. (This information can be accessed on a publication's Web site.)

  • Research a journalist's background and find past stories written by him. (A simple Yahoo! search can pull up this information.)

  • Investigate exactly what type of stories interest a contact, and pitch accordingly. (Services such as ProfNet and Bacon's Media Source contain this information.)

  • Be realistic when pitching a client—realize which clients warrant coverage in larger venues, such as The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal. (Subscribe to the publication and have it delivered to your inbox daily, weekly, or at other suitable intervals.)

  • Find out the journalist's deadline. (Get the person's contact information off the Web site and call the publication's online editorial department to inquire about deadlines.)

  • Do not spam an editor with excessive e-mails—learn whether that person prefers e-mail or another mode of communication. (Most of the online media directories give the pitching preferences of editors and journalists.)

  • Be responsive to the media person's inquiries. (That's why we have e-mail, for quick response time.)

  • Do not send a journalist attachments unless you know the person or the journalist requests information as an attachment to an e-mail. (Studies upon studies have been conducted—and are available on the Internet—regarding e-mail attachments.)

  • Offer information in a timely manner. (Again, e-mail is great for timeliness.)

  • Provide the truth and credible information to build trust in the relationship. (Lead the journalist to other sources online to back up the information you are providing.)

  • Know the facts of the story, the position of your company, and what's going on in its industry. (The Internet is a great tool for accessing information quickly and remaining constantly updated.)

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