The key ingredient in building a solid public relations plan is media relations. Without a journalist who cares about you and your company, you’ll never get them to write about your brand.

Cozying up to a journalist? Well, that’s a little harder than it sounds.

Step 1: Pay Attention

The first thing you have to do if you want to at least get on a journalist’s radar is read her writing. Subscribe to her RSS feed or regularly check in on her print articles. This does a few things for you:

  1. Helps you understand whether she even covers news like what you would pitch
  2. Gives you a sense for what she’s passionate about
  3. Helps you stay on top of what she’s up to

A great tip at this stage is commenting. Comment on a fair number of her posts (don’t be a stalker, though) with relevant and useful posts. Show that you’re paying attention by pointing out specific parts of her article in your comment.

Step 2: Connect Socially

Chances are, your journalist is active on social media. Find out by searching Muck Rack, which lists profiles for journalists on multiple social sites. Follow her everywhere you’re active.

First, just listen. See what she’s tweeting about. If she uses the account for personal updates only, back off. But if she’s sharing her posts and others, slowly start retweeting and commenting on her updates.

You can also share articles she’s written with your own audience. She’ll likely notice. That’s a good thing.

Step 3: Send an Introduction

You may want to do a warm intro via Twitter if she’s especially active there:

@journalist Would love to connect with you via email. If it’s ok, please DM me your address.

This can give her a heads-up on your email, especially given that she gets hundreds of pitches a day. It can also help her connect in her mind that you’re the one who regularly retweets her content.

In the email, offer a simple introduction. Mention that you’ve been a fan of her work for some time, and maybe point out an article or two you liked. Note: this is not where you pitch your story.

Offer yourself as an expert, in the event she ever writes an article where you could be a resource for a quote. That’s all.

Step 4: Stay in Touch

Keep the relationship casual at this point. Continue to comment and interact on social media. Maybe send the occasional email about a post you liked.

Step 5: Now for the Pitch

Now that you’ve built this amazing, long-term relationship with this journalist, it’s time to pitch. Send a short email outlining your news in a sentence, followed by why you think her readers would care. Use no more than three bullet points to give details.

If you have a press release, include a link to it. Don’t copy and paste it in the email unless you’ve been asked to. And under no circumstance should you attach it!

If she’s interested, she’ll get back with you. Follow up once in a week (you can do it on Twitter or email) to make sure she got your email. After that, let it go. Whether she covers your news is affected by many factors, including interest, schedule, and time. Keep trying until she does cover you.