Let’s face it, one of the biggest mysteries in PR agency land is how to offer journalists exactly what they want.
Balancing our clients’ priorities with offering valuable stories to reporters can sometimes seem an impossible equation.
But when these somewhat contrasting worlds reach equilibrium, the work we do can bring impressive results to our clients and help journalists tackle their everyday pressures.
So, the big question is: how to give journalists exactly what they need, exactly when they need it?
I was offered the rare opportunity to meet a wide range of top performers in technology and business journalism at the recent Media Insights conference, hosted by Influencing.
The packed schedule of keynotes and ‘speed dating-like’ 10-minute chats with key journalists offered unprecedented insights into the day-to-day life of this sometimes enigmatic being – the Aussie journalist.
Here are the top ten tips from Media Insights 2015 on how to become a media relations guru. Huge thank you to the journalists and PR professionals for so openly sharing these insights!
#1 Give them everything!
When you’re distributing a press release, make sure the email contains everything needed to write a story. This includes intelligent quotes from executives, key points in an easily digestible form and importantly, a link to high-resolution images.
If you work for an enterprise technology client, this can be a challenge. How about sharing a few images of the executive quoted in the release or even the company logo? But don’t fill the journalist’s inbox by attaching these images. Upload them to a service such as OneDrive or Dropbox and share the link along with the release.
#2 All about ROI baby…
Journalists rarely mention it but they are under huge commercial pressure, everyday.
The second you start pitching a story, the journalist’s head is going through a simple calculation of effort vs. reward: how long will it take to write the story and how many clicks/reads will it get?
It’s all about numbers. Keeping this in mind when deciding whether to pick up the phone or not will make everyone’s job easier.
#3 Ride the news wave
Believe it or not, it’s not about your client’s press release cycle.
People’s interests move from one subject matter to the next very quickly. So make sure your story taps into a relevant, timely news topic.
Let’s imagine you work for a cyber security client. How about pitching a story about the potential security threats related to the new data retention laws instead of sending another obscure press release about your client’s latest product upgrade?
Riding the news cycle is where great PR is done. So keep reading those newspapers and websites.
#4 To call or not to call?
“Just wanted to give you a call to see if you received the press release I sent you…?”
We all know the dreaded follow-up call is as awkward to the PR person as it is to the reporter. Our speakers at Media Insights 2015 agreed they mostly find these situations tedious. But every now and then the follow-up call is actually helpful and brings out a story worth covering.
But please, phone the journalist the next day, not earlier.
#5 Media trained robots
Journalists appreciate a spokesperson who is properly media trained – with articulate insights and a complete understanding of the purpose of the interview and topic under discussion.
But ‘overly’ media trained executives, who actually say nothing, are not the people reporters want to interview. These ‘robot-like creatures’ who mindlessly repeat key messages (that sometimes don’t even have anything to do with the subject matter) are a waste of a journalist’s time.
Not sure what I’m talking about? Watch how the former UK Labour leader Ed Miliband does it.
#6 The early bird catches the worm
Pitch your stories in the morning. Many journalists have long commutes and start tackling their inboxes as early as 7.30am. Catch reporters before they’ve made a decision what to cover that day, and you will have a higher chance of success. Generally before 10.00am is the best time to share your story idea/press release with a journalist.
#7 Give and take
When your client is in the middle of a crisis or negative news cycle, this is not the time to unplug your phone and disappear into thin air.
If you expect your media contacts to write about the positive news from your client, you should also provide them with a response when times are bad. Be transparent and honest. Even if your client isn’t willing to comment, explain this to the journalist. They will remember your response next time you approach them with a positive story!
#8 Events are great but…
Journalists and publishing houses are scattered all over the city. So if you’re organising an event, ensure it’s accessible from all angles. No journalist wants to waste two hours of his or her day in traffic just because your client launched a new product.
#9 Don’t be boring
If you wouldn’t read the story you’re pitching, chances are nobody would. So don’t waste everyone’s time by trying to sell it in.
#10 Become a stalker
The only way to know if the story is relevant to the journalist is to… know if the story is relevant to the journalist.
Yep. Read their stories, know their beats and what interests them. Follow them on Twitter to understand what really floats their boat. Invite them for a quick beer or coffee to ask how they’re doing, what they’re working on and what they need from you.
This will enable you to have deeper, more meaningful relationships with media. It will guarantee you’re offering your contacts the most relevant information. And it makes everyone’s days in the office more enjoyable too!