If at first you don’t succeed… take a journo to lunch.
How does a public relations practitioner get their story in the news? How do you get a radio interview for your client? How do you get them on TV?
We have had times in the past when we were fully committed to getting our clients story in the news, only for it to fall on deaf ears. In the interests of shared knowledge, we have come up with a bit of a recipe for success, developed over decades of experience from our team.
Know the section, know the editor, and know the reporter. Nothing was ever achieved without someone knowing someone. Get to know the editors and reporters from the sections of newspapers where you want your story. Is it general news or is it better placed in the rural section, or consumer affairs? Maybe it’s a story that would be suited to the mining and resources section or perhaps, arts? Knowing publications and how they are broken down gives you a much better chance to pitch to the right section and then to the right journalist.
Get to know the editor of that section, or do some research to find the reporters that write the section. Have a look through Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn to see if you can find out a bit more about them. Read their work as much as possible and find any themes, interests and other things that stay with you. Perhaps they love good coffee or a round of golf. Find out what makes the journalist tick and use that to get their attention. Take them for a coffee or if you can, a round of golf.
Journalists are storytellers – they got into journalism to tell stories. Give them a story to weave with terrific characters and a good deal of meat for them to develop the story. Every good story has a lead character, someone who grabs the attention of the reader. There is drama, or suspense, romance or science. Whatever the story you are pitching, give journalists and producers suitable and knowledgeable talent. If your star is shy, they are better suited to print and online articles, so pitch them that way. If your talent is gregarious, then radio and TV are great outlets for them. They will shine.
Trust is all-important and you have to become a trusted operator. You are usually only remembered by your biggest mistake. Journalists get frustrated when we get stuff wrong and they are usually particular about things like grammar and spelling. It is best practice to get someone else to read your work before you send it. There is nothing worse than a media release or pitch riddled with errors. It’s also best to pitch the story and not the business. Tie your brand or story in to a bigger story or issue that is topical, or simply provide enough of a story. Imagine asking someone to read a media release about solar panels or fertiliser without providing a story or its characters. Journalists will be more likely to read your email pitch if you have correctly engaged them previously. You would be surprised how many journalists will delete emails before opening them because of the name of the sender.
News, interesting idea or character – ask yourself the questions or ask others about the content of your story? Quite often with our best interests at heart, we end up with an emotional investment in some way. We can become blinded. It’s important to have an interesting story, character or something that is newsworthy. Our clients trust us more when we are honest with them and tell them that the story they have is not newsworthy and won’t be an easy pitch. Think about how to make it more interesting or how it can be tied in with another topical story. Don’t be scared to tell your boss that the news or their character will be a hard sell.
Local, hyper local or national – choose the media and the medium. Quite often people send a pitch with a mail merge or a change of name system in a scattergun approach. This is fine if the story is of national interest but in most cases, it will fail because there is nothing local or hyper local in the release. Ask yourself the question – where is the best audience for my story? Maybe it would be best suited to local and community newspapers – in this case personalise the pitch to each outlet with statistics or results that would best suit the community. You may be an NFP who has a general message that can become very local with the right local angle information.
Short sharp and shiny. Journalists get hundreds of emails like yours, from people like you every day. Make your pitch as short and sharp as you can while giving enough of a story or character. Long, rambling emails that include everything about your brand and business can often be off putting. One page at most if you are going with a media release. Call your reporter or producer, get straight to the point and offer all of the detail you can – is it an exclusive for them? (If so, make it so – you can’t offer everyone an exclusive). Do you have the same story that you are shopping around but have something different and appropriate for the reporter’s particular area of interest or expertise? Give them a strong news angle that is best suited to what they do rather than the fact that you think your story is interesting – of course you do.
The first line is most important. Starting an email with “Hi Samantha, I hope this finds you well” to a producer or reporter that you have never met is indeed a foolhardy exercise. I know one public relations operator who is still remembered for his very unique approach to reporters. Emails always started or ended with “Love your hair and hope you win!” To this day, reporters remember this guy and his clients benefit greatly from the results he can generate. Don’t be scared to have a personality and set yourself apart, but be aware the sooner you get to your point, the more chance you have of your story hitting the news.
If you think that you have this all right and you are still not getting the results you want, then call us at Cuckoo Creative. Our team have decades of success putting thousands of stories on the pages of papers, hundreds of people on radio and dozens on TV. And if at first you don’t succeed, take a journo to lunch. Or let us…