You feel your head is ready to explode. This is the third press release you’ve sent out this month, and not one single reporter has reached out to cover your story.
You check your messages. But no one has called. You review your press release just in case you left out the proper contact information. No, it’s in there.
So what’s the deal?
Many of us have been in your shoes. You want to show your boss that you can give your company off-the-chain media coverage. But oftentimes, reporters respond with radio silence when we send out our press releases.
I asked some of my reporter friends to weigh in on why your email messages end up in the trash bin.
April Douglas is Director of Public Relations at AltaPointe Health Systems. Before becoming a PR guru, she worked in broadcast journalism for more than 13 years.
“Early on during my broadcast television career, I would hear this phrase more than once: who cares?” said Douglas. “It was my job to sell that story and explain why I should be allowed to spend the next four hours rounding up interviews, separating the fact from fiction, and uncovering information no one else knew about.”
Douglas says when you write your press release, find ways to make the reporter care about your story. How will your business affect the average Joe at home?
Douglas shares even more tips on pitching your story:
- Know your reporter, do your research ahead of time and find out what beat they cover.
- Keep it short. Reporters don’t have time to read through a lot of information.
- Make sure your story is visual when pitching to media, especially television journalist.
- Reporters don’t like ‘talking heads’; find a ‘real person’ for them to interview.
(Helpful hint – this will keep them from doing ‘man on the street’ interviews which typically tend to be people who know nothing about the topic.)
Do Your Research
Rob Holbert is editor of the wildly popular Lagniappe newspaper. Like Douglas, he also says you should do a little research on the publication to which you are pitching. “The main advice I would offer is knowing the parameters of what we cover when approaching us with a story idea,” said Holbert. “It will offer more success.”
Michelle Irvin with AL.com couldn’t agree more. “Make sure you know what the person you’re contacting writes about. You wouldn’t believe the amount of garbage I get in my inbox every day from folks who want me to review this or that product,” laments Irvin. “Then, they circle back over and over again, and it’s incredibly annoying when their emails pop up.”
Building a working relationship with a reporter is a two-way street. If you brush off a reporter’s repeated request for information, they won’t be too quick to cover your stories in the future.
Andrea Ramey is an anchor and reporter at NBC 15 News in Mobile, Alabama. “Don’t be the ‘non-information’ public information officer,” said Ramey. “Don’t be the one who is cursed out loud in all of the newsrooms. It seems simple, but if a reporter asks for information, please provide it in a timely manner.”
Ramey says the news business is deadline-driven. Reporters have a small window of time to get the information they need from you. “I get my story assignments usually by 10:00 am, and those have to be edited and ready to go on the air at 5 & 6,” explained Ramey. “So when I call, text and email multiple times, and you don’t acknowledge me until 4:00, I’m doing the story regardless. So, you can either be a willing participant, or not. You can respond to a criticism, or ignore it, which is very poor public relations.”
Social media has truly changed the game when it comes to getting the word out. You don’t have to wait for a reporter to cover your story. As a public relations practitioner, you can be the best storyteller for your organization. “Find ways to share stories about your organization, and take advantage of social media,” said Douglas.
Many businesses have their own mini-newsrooms within their organization. For instance, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a brilliant external affairs office. The staff writes stories for the website, and produces videos for the official USFWS YouTube page. These stories are constantly shared on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.
Not only should you share your organization’s stories on social media. You should also “follow” your favorite reporters. Engage them, and share their stories with your network. That will help you get on their radar, and perhaps they will recognize your name.
Don’t Be Annoying
When I worked as a news reporter, there was always that one PR person who was the butt of the joke in the newsroom. This is the person who floods the reporter’s inbox, and practically stalks the newsroom.
Don’t be that person.
For more tips on dealing with the media, click here.