Here’s the cold, hard truth about why so many organizations have difficulty getting reporters to help tell their story.
Your headlines are bad. If you can’t grab the reporter’s attention, how are they supposed to get the public’s attention? The truth is people probably spend less time on the most important part of a press release: the headline. The headline is your best opportunity to entice the reporter to read more while framing your message from the get-go. Think about what compelled you to read this post: the headline was catchy, told you exactly what you were about to read, and is relevant – which brings us to our next point…
They don’t care. Before sending out a press release or pitching a reporter ask yourself this all-important question: Why should they care? Be tough (reporters certainly will) and don’t BS yourself here – make sure your answer is an honest one and not something you’re telling yourself to justify sending something. Reporters and newsroom decision-makers are looking for news that is relevant to the people who read their stories, watch their newscasts, etc. Make sure what you are pitching is something not only the reporter will care about, but news s/he can make the audience care about and want to understand as well.
There’s no story to tell. Think about it. When you talk to someone about something you read in the news or saw on TV, you probably refer to it as a “story” nine times out of ten. That’s because that is how news is most often delivered: in the form of storytelling. And these stories usually center on people. So, if you want to reporter to cover your news, provide them with the story and the people (interviews) to help tell it.
The visuals are missing. Whether it’s print, online or television, visuals are vital (after all, it’s called “teleVISION,” right?). Interesting infographics, pictures, charts, video elements, etc., are all important things that will help a reporter tell the story you are trying to pitch.
You’re barking up the wrong tree. Don’t send your news releases to the same old list every time. Sure the “beat” system is largely a thing of the past, but make sure you are only pitching reporters who have already covered your particular issue or will likely do so in the future. Additionally, look for opportunities to expand your distribution and pitching to relevant verticals like economic, heath, outdoor, and political reporters and outlets. But whatever you do, don’t send a news release about your upcoming book fair to a reporter who only covers crime unless the author of an amazing crime book will be there.
Your follow up is bad. After sending a press release, it’s important to follow up with you with reporters to make sure your email didn’t go to spam and that they understand the story you’re trying to tell. Anyone who has done this knows reporters don’t typically like follow-up calls – but that’s because the majority of the time the pitch they are hearing from PR folks is not relevant, not news, or just not very good. If what you are sending is truly news (see above), reporters will often appreciate the heads-up. Make sure you have a list of reporters to follow up with individually and make your pitch specific to each one so the reporter doesn’t feel like they’re just getting the same old script you are using with everyone else. If you want them to take the time to write your story, take the time to make it worth their while.
Need help? Summers Strategies has some of the best media relations professionals in the business.