Marketing pros yearn to win the attention of newsrooms across the globe, but journalists often cringe at the thought of being “pitched.” And if you’re still using outdated tactics to capture targeted reporters, chances are your outreach never reaches the inbox. It’s a huge challenge that newsrooms face today as they get inundated with crass PR messages across multiple social media and traditional channels. The truth is: our vision of “newsworthy” is often tainted by our brand obligations. And major news organizations are trying to let us know.
Commentary from key reporters at The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CNN, USA Today, NPR, Washington Post and others reveals a huge disconnect between the actual stories published and the pitches that precede them. So, before you rush that email over to the editor of Forbes Magazine, here are some essential tips from journalists on maximizing your success.
Prepare. No, Really – Prepare.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t go without saying. Sources who are unprepared to answer basic follow-up questions about their story ideas – such as how new this is, why they got into this, and what are they going to do about it – is a major pet peeve for reporters. Sometimes the very basic foundations of public relations need to be recalibrated. Lesson #1: a strong knowledge of the subject matter is essential to building credibility.
Think Like a Reporter, Write Like a Reporter.
Successful PR sources not only take the time to examine what a reporter has written about in the past, but also think intelligently about how new topics relate and can actually add value for the reader. Oftentimes, PR sources tend to push stories out without any regard to the reader’s potential interest. In fact, PR pros should be capable of writing the article themselves – just as a reporter would – with all the information required by the target audience.
Be Honest About Your News Angle.
For big business publications, a successful pitch tends to have far-reaching implications or serious news behind it. A reporter knows instantly when you’re trying to mask real news with promotion. So why continue to go down that road? Instead, think about the real issues and determine how you can genuinely advance the conversation.
Be Incredibly Available.
So many PR contacts fail to have someone available who is able or authorized to comment on the day they release a good story. Reporters are always willing to speak with someone else – including a competitor. So it’s critical to have a number of media-trained experts available as pinch hitters if your main source is unable to speak with a reporter on deadline.
Time Your Pitches Strategically.
Ninety Five percent of all pitches received by media contacts are delivered less than 24 hours before an event that had to have been planned weeks or months beforehand. Many news publications plan coverage well in advance, so be thoughtful and strategic about timing your pitches.
In a recent article, CBS Interactive writer Rachel King, states: “…you don’t need to write cover letters, short stories, or stalk Twitter accounts to see where journalists had their last cup of coffee for an easy (and cheap) introduction.” So put yourself in the reporter’s desk and rework your story until it passes the editorial litmus test. Then, and only then, will you be able to consistently win newsroom attention.