For many individuals, the process of getting a story to a reporter for publication can seem daunting. But it’s easier than one might think and the publication of a story in a legitimate news source can be a major boost to name recognition and credibility in your given field. Here are just a few tips to help you begin building rapport with reporters.
Be Prepared. Seriously.
Sounds very simple, but after decades of working in and with media I’d be remiss if I didn’t make this point. You’d be surprised at how often people–even marketing and PR reps for big corporations–fail to consider the specific needs of reporters, producers and editors before calling. Each broadcast, print and online outlet has its own editorial calendar, priorities, reporting style, production deadlines and audience. Which means each may be interested in your story, but for different reasons. While your media goal may be to increase public awareness of a single topic, you may need to take a different approach to pitching each outlet. Be sure you make the very best of your first shot at generating interest and making a good impression.
Media People Are Human
Imagine someone calling you on your busiest, most stressful day to “pick your brain” about something that should be common knowledge without ever having bothered to do any research herself. Even if you like this individual immensely and tend to have the patience of Job, your first instinct might be to rush her off the phone as quickly as possible and think twice before answering her next call. Reporters are no different.
As soon as their feet hit the floor in the morning, journalists, editors and producers are under pressure to meet multiple deadlines. It’s important to know those deadlines before you call, and to be as succinct as possible in your discussion. Like every human, busy reporters can and do make mistakes–like missing out on your great story because you did not quickly and clearly communicate the value.
Give Them a Compelling Story
When submitting an idea for media coverage, it is important to consider why reporters would want to act on your idea. Ultimately, they’re in the business of satisfying consumers in their audience, to ensure repeat customers and the advertising sales they need to stay in business. Evaluate how newsworthy your story is in terms of factors such as urgency, the number of people it will affect, the impact it may have on their lives, and the storytelling value. The better the public appeal, the better your chances for a successful pitch.
Good Manners Matters
Again, reporters are human. If reporters find dealing with a source to be an unpleasant experience, they may be reluctant to hear more from them. In addition to being considerate of their time and needs when making a pitch, be sure to thank them at every turn. Try sending a “thank you for taking time out to discuss…” email, even if your story did not get picked up. And when they do cover your story, be sure to follow-up with immediate thanks. I like to send a card or note via snail mail, copying higher-ups in their organization if their handling of a story warrants. In other cases, a gift basket, flowers or similar token of appreciation can be very effective.
Finally, it is important to realize that media teams are very busy maneuvering through complicated research, interviewing, writing, fact-checking, and editing processes to make sure they can get stories out at remarkable speed. If you don’t hear back from an outlet for a time, it’s okay to make a quick followup call–try to keep it at two, three minutes tops. Simply confirm receipt of your release or proposal and let them know you’re available to answer any questions. Don’t try to force an answer about if or when the story will run. People in newsrooms deal with more than their share of pressure from callers who get pushy and do themselves more harm than good by putting them in an uncomfortable spot.
Knowing the right way to get a reporter’s ear in the initial stages of a story is an important step toward getting your story out to the public. With a positive attitude and a bit of patience, you can be a newsmaker.
Generating earned (free) media coverage is just one of the many marketing and public relations strategies I help my clients design and implement. If you’re interested in finding out more, visit www.jhart.tv for more details and to schedule a complimentary strategy call to discuss the unique goals and challenges of your business.