Lack Of Media Contacts No Reason To Sit On Stories

Posted on May 25, 2014. Filed under: Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Which comes first, the story idea or the media contact relationship?

Believe it or not, I’ll take the great story idea first — if I have to choose. So should you.

I’ve worked with literally thousands of media outlets and their people — reporters, editors, program producers, photographers —  over the years. From that experience, I’ve distilled some basic facts about “working with the media” that I’d like to share.

  • It’s not necessary to be on a first-name basis with reporters before you can pitch them on a story idea. “Who do you know” at such-and-such a media outlet is one of the most common things clients and prospective clients ask. I understand why clients ask this question so routinely. They want to be successful. Having contacts is important. I don’t want to downplay the advantage that a PR person has in knowing a key reporter personally, especially at the larger, more influential media outlets. But there’s no reason to believe that you have to know reporters and editors in advance to pitch them on your story idea. Not if you’ve done your homework first, to figure out if the story you’re pitching is relevant to the type of the coverage that the outlet handles, and matches up to the specific beat of the reporter, editor or producer. If you’ve got news, and it’s of interest to the media outlet’s audience, then you’ve got reason enough to get in touch with the editorial people who handle the type of story you’re proposing.
  • Do your media relations homework. Be a student of the game. Read, watch, listen to what’s being said about your industry — and where it’s being said. Analyze stories to understand what makes them newsworthy. Put yourself in the reporter’s place — think like a journalist! Build up a file of stories similar to what you’re hoping to get for you own business (online storage services like Evernote and Microsoft’s OneNote are great for saving reference material like this).
  • Put it in writing. Most reporters will listen to your pitch, and then say something like “send me something written and I’ll taka  look at it.” Now you’ll send your press release, fact sheet, backgrounder, bio, news alert, white paper or whatever. Or maybe you’ve already sent the press release along as an attachment to an email pitch you sent to the reporter. You might have to send it again – or send more information that supports your story. Be sure to have this material prepared and ready to go in advance. You don’t watch to capture the reporter’s attention, only to lose it again because you can’t follow through with something so basic as a press release or fact sheet.
  • Concentrate on your story. Is it really newsworthy? Have you considered all the angles – are you looking at it from the journalist’s point of view?
  • I would never let not knowing the media stand between me and getting a good story placed. Neither should you. Let your story be your guide; if it’s a good one, and you’ve got the right attitude and know-how, you can be sure that the media will listen to you — even if they’re not in your pantheon of close personal friends prior to your contacting them.

Once again, I’m not saying that personal connections with the media aren’t important. They’re invaluable. All PR people of any standing have their personal media contact lists that they guard like family jewels. I’m no exception. But it’s no either/or situation. Enthusiasm for a good story can carry the day, no matter whether you’re pitching it to your best friend or to a complete stranger.

 

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