How News Decisions Are Made

Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising as public relations, marketing, and advertising continue to converge, but newspapers still get a lot of calls from people who don’t understand the difference between placing an ad and submitting a news release. Here are some reminders about the most effective ways to work with reporters and editors:

Think outside of the news release

When you have BIG news, the worst thing to do is to send it in a news release to every outlet in town. Publications assume that if they get a news release, everyone else is getting it too. And there’s nothing a paper likes more than exclusivity. They want to be the first, or only, outlet to cover a story. A better approach is picking one publication, pitching the story to them in advance, and then giving them the opportunity to write a story before you send a release to anyone else. The result usually is a more prominent story with better placement instead of a brief buried toward the back.

Form relationships with reporters

This is key. There’s a time and place for news releases (repeat: not when you have BIG news), but sending an idea that’s only a few sentences long via e-mail can be just as effective. If it’s something they can use, they’ll follow up with you for more information. But don’t take it personally if they don’t bite. There’s always next time. If you stay in touch and keep offering ideas, one will hit eventually. Just be selective–don’t send an e-mail a day.

Pitching profiles

The more specific you can be, the better. Everyone thinks their CEO is “great” and “has led the company to success.” Did she do this while training for her first marathon? Or did he create a new model that changed the industry standard? They want details. Same goes for company profiles.

Name dropping works

When you pitch a story for a specific section, it shows that you read the paper and took the time to think about how your idea would fit into their publication. They also like when you reference past stories–“I saw your article on SBA loans for businesses affected by the flood and thought you might be interested in how my company sought alternative financing.”

Connect with publications via social media

Many outlets and reporters have Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook accounts and ask for sources on these platforms. Follow the outlets and journalists that cover your industry and jump in when an opportunity arises. Take some time to join in conversation with them without mentioning your client or company. Then, when you have a piece of relevant news, they’ll be more receptive to it.

Print and online have different audiences

Website and print edition of the same publications typically have very distinct audiences–there’s only a 25 percent crossover between the two. If they get an exclusive, they’re more likely to share it in the print edition. If the news is available to everyone, it may end up on the website.

Are there any tips we missed? What has worked best for you? Let us know by writing a review.

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