There are plenty of examples of less-than-stellar encounters between journalists and PR pros. And that’s not good for anyone. With both sides of the industry changing monumentally, the two parties need each other more than ever. We recently asked our PR team what journalists need from brands these days and how PR can deliver. Here are some tips that will help you get on the same page with the journalists you work with, and ultimately get coverage:
Brands are now their own publishers. Because of this, journalists must work harder to make their stories stand out online. Here’s what they want from your brand:
- Pitches that are customized and content that is unique to them.
- Make ’em short and sweet!
- They want you to remember the details—grammar, spelling or addressing them by the right name … it all matters.
- They want you to answer the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me).
- If you can provide them with data, or highlight industry trends relevant to their beat, even better.
- They want access to your subject matter experts for quick, concise commentary.
- They want access to visuals—photos, video and graphics.
- They want streamlined online newsrooms where they can easily access corporate press releases, product information, visuals, and PR or spokesperson contact information.
- For trade publications, we are seeing more and more requests to create unique bylined articles by subject matter experts. Journalists are tasked with creating a lot of content these days, so the more you can help them, the better.
But more than anything, journalists want to make sure you understand what they write on and pitch them ideas that are highly relevant! Remember to carefully research the reporter you’re pitching and have a good handle on their stories and the audience they write for. A little preparation goes a long way.
Public Relations Counsel
Journalists are filing stories faster than you can click on them. Content creation has become a core competency for journalists who were already stretched thin. The more you can help them create timely stories that resonate with their audience, the more you make yourself indispensable.
Be a trendspotter and identify issues and topics that resonate with their audience. Share ideas regularly, establishing yourself as a trusted funnel of great ideas. I’m regularly in correspondence with journalists, and even if they aren’t writing on a particular topic right now, often they’ll file away story ideas for later or ask me to please keep the ideas coming!
Brevity is key. If you can’t “elevator pitch” it, then you can’t pitch it. Once upon a time, I wrote a pitch that was too long and received the following reply from a journalist (verbatim): “Your original email made my head fall off and roll around on the floor. I don’t have time to read, digest and parse all that stuff. What’s the story? Why should I be interested? Please respond using words of one syllable.” Never again.
And work within their framework—deadlines and all. In my first PR job, my boss and I set ourselves a rule that any call or email from a reporter received a reply in ten minutes or less. This may sound dramatic, but especially when it comes to breaking news, if you delay, the reporter may have already moved on to another source (possibly at the competition).
Public Relations Counsel
With shrinking newsrooms, I am seeing reporters working smarter, not harder. They have a lot on their plates with most of them shooting, editing and producing pieces themselves. They’re appreciative of well-prepared, nicely packaged story ideas that are fresh and relevant.
If you can include stock photos, videos, etc. to pitch along with your subject matter experts, that just simplifies the process instead of prolonging the chain of communication. It also makes telling your brand’s story easier—a win-win for both journalists and PR pros.
I am also seeing reporters interacting more on social platforms related to what they are covering. I always try to connect with them online to help share their stories to amplify the coverage even more. It also helps to build those strong relationships with the media.
Most importantly, be lovers, not fighters! Our PR pros stress that the best stories come from collaboration, and relationships are still at the heart of successful public relations.