Reporters want a story and you have one to tell. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that often results in valuable earned media coverage for your brand. But a simple exchange between a PR professional and news reporter can occasionally get disrupted.
During my 16 years in television news, I received lots of pitches – plenty of great ones and others that fell flat. Now I can share what PR pros did – and didn’t do – that affected newsroom decisions about if and how to cover a story.
Here are three ways to partner with a reporter to make sure your story is the one that gets told.
A PR professional representing an organization’s brand should be in the know. That means making sure you’re up to date on current events and what’s trending. The better you (the PR pro) are at anticipating, the better you’ll be at making a relevant pitch or reacting to a media inquiry. Stay curious about the issues impacting your organization and your key stakeholders.
Let’s say you’re in education, and soon a law will be passed in your state that impacts teacher pay. Assuming it’s a topic you want to want to share an opinion on, anticipate how your organization might want to respond. Who can be on standby for an interview? Better yet – can you be ready with a pitch that offers a local perspective?
If you don’t anticipate news, time will not be on your side. By the time a reporter’s requests can be met, the moment may have passed. Don’t miss opportunities to put your organization’s expertise front and center. Set Google Alerts around a topic or issue you’re following, and be ready to act.
You have an event to promote or an exciting initiative to share. You did everything right, and you sent an intriguing pitch. Now a reporter’s interested, and they’re asking for an on-camera interview… today! Only, it turns out your spokesperson is going out of town or has strict windows of availability. You can’t deliver in a timely manner.
The lesson here is this: don’t make a promise you can’t keep. If a reporter asks their editor or manager to go after a story, they’re planning their entire day around your pitch. Leave a reporter hanging, and they’ll never forget the day they got burnt.
Your organization is planning something big, and you want to make a splash. So, you send an invitation to a press event teasing a big announcement, but you won’t say what it is. Better to build anticipation, you reason.
Reporters are wise to this. Often, these “secret” events with “big” announcements are a bust. An announcement fails if you can’t show reporters why it matters to their audience and is genuinely newsworthy. They’re going to be extra cautious if you won’t give them details. It’s the boy who cried wolf, PR edition.
Rather than sending teasers without substance, send your information with an embargo, which asks the media to not publish your news until a specific date. You’re more likely to get better coverage because you’ve allowed the media time to plan and consider the news value. They’ll also appreciate the trust you’ve shown them.
Need help perfecting your pitch? If you’re looking to fire up your branding program with proactive PR, give us a shout!