March 3, 2017
“Think like a reporter” is something uttered in just about every PR class. But the pressure that journalists are under for their writing to drive visitors to their publications’ social and Internet pages presents a new opportunity for reporters and PR pros to think alike in order to help each other produce content that gets clicks.
“Reporters would rather focus on the story, but now writers and editors also have to think just as hard about ‘How do I promote this story with the right headline, or in 140 characters or less?’” says Jeffrey Layne Blevins, head of the journalism department at the University of Cincinnati.
Instead of this new pressure creating more tension with journalists, as public relations professionals we can find ways to help reporters help us by delivering fresh insights through data and finding angles to build on the day’s headlines — and as always, by understanding the goals of the writers and content producers we’re pitching so we can offer them relevant material.
Reporters are clamoring for new angles, fresh facts and deeper insights. Diving into your organization’s data can yield new opportunities to engage the media with easy-to-digest stats and figures that illustrate a larger story or offer a fun, quirky angle to an annual story. If your company sells nuts, find out what selection is the most popular during the holidays or what city buys the most, making it the “nuttiest city.”
“In a world of fake news, it’s more important than ever to inform and support our media relations efforts with data,” says Kevin Dugan, APR, co-founder of the Bad Pitch blog. “Everything we do generates data. It’s everywhere. Used correctly, data proves your assertions, making your pitches more credible and effective.”
Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky is credited with saying the key to the sport, for him, was anticipating where the puck would be next and skating toward that point, rather than skating to where the puck was at the moment. Applying this to media relations, our job is to consume news while always thinking ahead to where the story might go, and where it could intersect with our clients.
For example, when stock market futures started tanking at the moment Election Night returns indicated a Trump victory, I knew local reporters might want to talk to experts who could explain what was happening with the market. I quickly arranged interviews for my client, a leading investment firm, who had thoughts on what Trump’s victory would mean for the stock market. Having this “newsroom” mentality helps build relationships with journalists.
In today’s digital age, there isn’t any excuse for not having a solid grasp on what matters to the reporter, editor or outlet you are pitching. With nearly 60 percent of reporters posting news on Twitter (according to Columbia Journalism Review), there are multiple ways to find out what matters to each reporter’s audience. Yet, at every media-day event I attend, reporters complain about being barraged by irrelevant pitches.
This year promises to offer more challenges for both journalists and PR pros. But using the proven media relations strategies outlined above will make it easier for both sides of the media relations mix.