How to Get a Reporter’s Attention: Tips Straight From the Horse’s Mouth

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Michiko Morales

A couple weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend a PRSA conference at NPR’s brand new headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C. Not only was the location for the panel discussion an awesome place to spend my Wednesday morning, the insight I gained from those who spoke was nothing short of intriguing.

From the title of the conference, “Meet the Multimedia Journalists,” I was under the impression that the majority of the conference would be dedicated to the drastic changes that the media landscape has gone through in recent years. It is no secret that the way journalists, and in turn public relations professions, do their job has changed dramatically since social media has stepped on to the scene. However, this didn’t strike me as nearly the most interesting topic that was touched on.

It seems that we public relations professionals are not quite as helpful to journalists as we may have thought. According to this group of reporters, the good old fashion “pitch” that was once so successful for people in the public relations profession, is becoming a bit of a headache in an age where any Joe Shmoe is able to create news, thanks to social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram. So how do we make ourselves, and more importantly, our clients stand out?

Here are a few points I was able take from the conference, and straight from the horse’s mouth:

1. The more web-friendly your content is, the more likely it is to be noticed. I believe there is really something to be said in keeping a story or a pitch “short and sweet.” As PR professionals, we need to be aware of the fact that almost every single publication today probably has a supplemental website, Twitter, blog and Facebook page. So maybe the content we’re pitching doesn’t make a great fit for their printed publication – making your pitch web-ready increases its chances of being featured nonetheless. By making your content adaptable to web print you’ll be doing a favor for yourself, your client, and the reporter.
2. Reporters love numbers. If you can generate numbers out of whatever story you’re pitching, you are making it that much more appealing to the reporters you’re pitching it to. According to this specific panel of journalists, charts make for wonderful attachments to stories, especially for online editions. If you send the reporters the numbers it takes to generate an eye-pleasing chart, trust me, they will thank you.
3. Preplanning is key. Reporters’ deadlines are shifting just as the media landscape is. Where the deadline for a story used to be before a reporter clocked out for the night, now they need to be prepared to press the publish button the minute they get to the office in the morning. It is important for us as PR practitioners to keeps this mind – if we want our content published; it is crucial that we help the journalist make their deadline.

In short, I learned that in order to help our clients, we must first and foremost help the journalists. There are reporters today that work to generate 8 stories an hour just to stay relevant in a world of over stimulated Internet junkies. If we can help them stay afloat, the good karma will come back our way.

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Leah Nurik