Journalists are swamped, their inboxes overflowing. So, at KC we understand that to help journalists achieve their goals – great stories, clear and reliable information and hit their deadlines – we need to think like they do. Our latest blog looks at the best ways to get a journalist’s attention and gives some helpful insights from Ismail Mulla, reporter at The Yorkshire Post and Chris Middleton, Digital Journalist at BQ:
Think about who you’re pitching to and why
Journalists don’t have time for generic releases and have a strong preference to only receive news that is relevant and matches what they cover.
Chris advises: “Tailor the release to the publication, make sure you understand their readers. My best contacts are the ones that understand what we’re looking for, and in turn they’ll always get more of my limited time.”
Ismail advises: “When writing a press release ask yourself what is the story? How would you describe the story to a friend over a cup of coffee? That should be the line in your pitch and intro.”
So, don’t use a “batch and blast” method, it’s just counterproductive. Instead, sending a few personalised pitches to high-value outlets is going to get you much further than a generic pitch to 100.
Send an email instead
In the digital era you’d think calling a journalist would be more preferable as it’s a more personal approach. But, you’d be wrong to assume that. Instead, all the survey’s we’ve looked at, both UK and internationally, clearly state email as the way to go. The Cision 2017 State of the Media Report clearly highlights this, with 92% of journalists overwhelmingly opting for email as the preferred channel for pitches and many of them saying that phone pitches are strictly off limits, unless you’re on a first-name basis with that journalist.
Chris advises: “Calling up is fine and is a good way to check if we’ve missed something. But don’t call when an email will do. And definitely, don’t call twenty minutes after sending a release.”
Get to the point…quickly
Journalists are faced with a jam-packed inbox, so you have to sparkle to get noticed and make your point clearly in the first paragraph. Don’t let the most interesting point be four paragraphs down.
Chris advises: “Make sure the best line is in the headline or opening para – the amount of times I’ve read through a story only to find a much better hook buried somewhere in the middle. I’d hate to think of how many stories I may have passed up due to poor headlines.”
Ismail advises: “Have you covered all bases? If you’ve covered the Who? What? Where? When? How? and Why? chances are you’ve given a well-rounded view of your story.”
Remember that many journalists will filter their emails by the subject line, so make sure yours will catch their interest.
Always include pictures
A picture tells a thousand words as the saying goes! So, help your chances of getting your story printed by including an image. You don’t need to send professional shots, just a good clear shot will be fine. It can make the difference between a column inch and a half page spread.
Ismail advises: “Make sure pictures are of a high quality and are relevant to the story.”
Build credibility with a journalist
More often than not, journalists don’t need PR pitches for story ideas. What they’re looking for are experts who can provide context, facts, and commentary to help with their reporting. When they do reach out and need your opinion, make sure you can respond swiftly.
Ismail advises: “If you’ve got someone quoted or a contact listed in a press release, are they available to talk on the day that you’re sending this information?”
Sharing their work
Journalists like their stories to be shared on social media. So, follow what they’re posting and share or retweet their news stories or latest think piece. It helps to keep you top of mind when they’re looking for sources in the future.
As our last thought, it’s important to understand that while you may have followed all the steps and emailed all the relevant journalists…no one is getting back to you. Unfortunately, this happens. As PR’s, we want client stories to hit the papers and online platforms with maximum impact, but sometimes the journalist has a very different view on what makes a newsworthy story. Maybe the timing wasn’t good, or the hook isn’t strong enough. But, don’t force your news onto journalists, brainstorm ways to improve it and make it more appealing. If you’re a journalist, why not Tweet us @kccomms with your thoughts.