Short attention spans, always being unavailable, viewing a pitch with an unhealthy dose of cynicism looking for angles that run in tangent to yours – does any of this sound familiar? These are just some of the realities you can expect to face while working with journalists.
You can’t really blame them. They are always under deadlines, pressure to turn out unique stories and have to constantly justify to their editors why their stories are Page 1 material. Readers value their judgement, demand absolute accuracy and relentless integrity. Many journalists are on edge, seemingly at the precipice of a nervous breakdown and easily irritable.
So, keeping the above in mind, here are 7 ways to get their attention:
- Individualize. You are talking to an individual, not to a crowd. Do some research on his or her needs, and align your pitches to their current beats. In today’s market, journalists talk to each other, and a generic approach can be quickly found out.
- Be Beat Savvy. All journalists have their own angles, specialties and beats. When writing your pitch, highlight why it will be a great angle for their story. Remember, try to use the same industry lingo that they do. A little bit of research goes a long way.
- Stay Relevant. Journalists move. Like most people, they also have career aspirations and occasionally move on to other opportunities. Nothing can be more annoying than being contacted about a previous beat or media house. Stay current. In fact, when they do move, use it as an opportunity to call, stay connected and understand how you can be helpful to them.
- Don’t email/tweet fluff. Journalists have very little time to read nonsense. Your email and other communications should be direct and straight to the point. Often, they are searching for stories or are in the midst of writing one when you reach out to them. Because of that, you only have a limited window to turn an annoying interruption into an inspiring one. Think elevator pitch and design your communication accordingly.
- Follow up: Are journalists not replying or calling back? Then follow up. They often receive a ton of email requests and cannot respond to all of them. Sometimes they need to get away from their email when concentrating on a story, or they just want to filter out what they see in order to focus. There’s a good chance your email was lost in the midst of their busyness. Give it a week, and then follow-up with a call. Otherwise, look for someone else. A non-response is not a reflection on you or your story.
[callout style=”red” centertitle=”true” align=”center” width=”80%”] Tip: Some journalists really don’t like to be called; find out who they are.[/callout]
- Facts and figures hook. When communicating with journalists, ALWAYS state the facts and figures first. It will get their attention faster. For journalists, facts and figures resonate better than concepts and assumptions. If they keep talking to you (or allow you to continue your conversation) that is a positive sign.
- Tweet. A lot of journalists are on Twitter these days looking for news angles. Twitter is also a great tool to “listen” to industry news and talk. Becoming an expert on Twitter is something you cannot avoid in PR these days.
[bctt tweet=”You only have a limited window to turn an annoying interruption into an inspiring one #publicrelations”]
As mentioned in previous blogs, working with reporters requires passion, patience and perseverance. Besides, some inroads and a strong virtual rolodex of journalist contacts can help to define your value as a public relations professional.