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How can you build mutually beneficial relationships with EU journalists to increase long-term chances of media coverage?

The large Brussels press corps has a tough gig. Journalists here need to translate the legalistic jargon of regulatory developments into stories that resonate with an audience both in and beyond the EU capital.

This presents challenges and an opportunities when it comes to your media relations strategy.

Here are five things you can do to increase your chances of capturing EU journalists’ attention and earning coverage.


1. Start early

Reaching out to a journalist when you desperately need them is already a bad start. Get to building that two-way relationship early. Generously give up information and knowledge to start. They’ll remember that and reward you with quotes in newsletters and articles later on.

While the foundation of our Media Strategy Sprint is to get really specific about the problem you’re trying to solve and then see what type of media (paid, earned, owned) could solve that, relationship building is just as foundational an exercise. It belongs in any media strategy. And there really is no excuse. A 30-minute coffee chat does not require a dedicated media relations officer to happen.


2. Be humble & stack digits

Aiming for the editor or a senior reporter isn’t always the best in. Spot a new reporter on a team that covers your sector? Invite them for coffee. Tell them who you work for and the stakes involved to get a positive response. If they need an extra nudge, you could promise some industry info.

Once you’ve gotten that positive response, you’ve most probably gotten their phone number in the signature of their reply. Keep that for later.


3. Take advantage of inexperience & be useful

Journalists in Brussels are relatively young. This makes them less cynical and jaded than the folks chasing war and famine, and generally less slippery than those chasing scandals in national capitals. They’ll be more likely to meet you and, generally, more earnest about their intentions.

Brussels is complicated, and they need you to help them make sense of it. Invite them for a coffee under the guise of having something interesting to say about XYZ upcoming proposal. Feed them with your views and concerns, and follow up with lines like “You might want to ask XXXX at the Commission’s press briefing”. They’ll remember you for having helped them feel smart at the briefing. Never bruise their ego by making the above too didactic and obvious.


4. Respect the details but don’t forget the bigger picture – humans

Brussels is a more technical, policy-driven place than wherever you’re from. Journalists here care about the nuances of an issue because their audience does. That being said, everyone in Brussels is still human. Humans care about drama and gossip and the things that will impact them materially. Basically, they care about humans. Give your story a human-interest angle to make it, shocker, interesting to humans.

E.g. F-gas is not intrinsically interesting, but companies going bust and thousands losing their jobs because f-gas regulatory demands are too ambitious is. I’m making this up. I have no clue about f-gases because the f-gas lobby has failed to make the stakes clear or interesting.


5. Remember that nobody cares about you

Harsh but unless you are the press person for a head of state, celebrity, or a company like Apple, you and your story are probably not intrinsically interesting.

This is a tough one to grasp for nearly everyone who’s worked for a while in their sector. Your passion or feeling of sunk cost is not everyone else’s problem. So, constantly ask yourself: why is this interesting? Why should people care? Ask that five times and you might be getting to the root human-interest angle of the story.


Try out the above tips yourself, and take a read of our Media Strategy Sprint page, which breaks down the four-step process we take clients through to fast track a clear strategy.

– Habib Msallem, Campaign Strategy & Media Lead

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