04.22.2013 | Anne Lindberg
We came across an article in the Economist that serves as an important reminder for us all. Simply put: Journalists are inundated- inundated with more topics to write about, deadlines and, most likely, pitches from PR professionals (and sadly, some of them aren’t very valuable). The article states that for each journalist in the U.S., there are approximately six PR professionals.
This statistic should stop us in our tracks. Particularly since this article was published two years ago, meaning the ratio of journalists to PR folks is probably even more out of proportion today, and journalists are more bogged down in emails and voicemails than ever.
This begs the question, what can we do about this to ensure that our messages are heard? Our goal remains the same as always: great coverage for our clients. And at the end of a journalist’s day, their goal also remains the same: a compelling story. Below are a few nuts and bolts to ensure that PR professionals’ outreach to journalists helps to achieve both of those end goals, rather than adding to the noise:
- Story: Have a good story idea, which includes well-rounded facts and sources and may include references that reporters can check out for themselves. Don’t make unsubstantiated claims assuming that a journalist is going to simply write your points at face value. It’s bad for credibility – both yours and the journalists. Good stories offer context to give readers perspective. It might be interesting to you, but how and why should it be interesting to the journalist’s audience?
- Variety: Have a variety of different ideas and angles to share with journalists throughout the year. Of course this doesn’t mean peppering emails to journalists on a daily basis. It means developing a variety of solid angles (see #1) that may appeal to the journalist so, when the time is right, you can share those ideas. Which leads us to the next point…
- Research: Do your homework. As the last two points suggest, you must know your audience. Research publications first to know their specific readership and what kinds of articles are typically written. If your story idea doesn’t pass the “what’s in it for me” test (from the reader’s point of view) then it shouldn’t be sent.
- Credibility: Be an honest, credible professional. As the article points out, mud slinging against competitors seems to be a more widely used tactic in public relations than ever before. This is inappropriate and does a disservice to you in the long run. You have to earn trust with journalists just like you do with anyone else. Your voice will be heard above the fray when a journalist knows you as smart, respectable and honest.
- Respect: Treat each journalist with professionalism and respect. This should be true with any human being, but it must be said here because in today’s world, everyone can be a published journalist. One blogger’s comments could skyrocket to the New York Times or all over Twitter in an instant; be respectful and professional when speaking to and about others in your industry.
All of the above relate to mindful communication. We must always be aware of a journalists’ point of view if we want to be heard above the fray. Do you have additional tips for engaging with media?