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  • WHAT JOURNALISTS WANT How to build relationships, deliver remarkable content,

    get journalists to cover your organization, and ace a tough interview.

    Lawrence Ragan

    Communications, Inc.



    CONTENTS Introduction

    Your online newsroom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

    Before you pitch: relationship building . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

    Pitching . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

    Press releases . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

    Acing the interview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11


    INTRODUCTION A producer at an ABC affiliate in upstate New York occupies a different niche in the media ecosphere from that of a London-based editor at Reuters News. But when it comes to pitching reporters, their advice is similar.

    Journalists are swamped. Their inboxes are overflowing. They don’t have time for off-topic pitches or information-choked emails. Cut to the chase.

    “Just tell me what you want,” says Larissa Hall, digital content manager at 13WHAM in upstate New York. “‘I want this guest on your morning show. I want this big opening covered. I want you to send cameras to this place at this time.’”

    Adds Mark Jones, the London-based Reuters global communities editor: “The thing that really gets journalists’ goat is the kind of unsolicited and irrelevant media release plugging up their inbox. ... You can see from Twitter what [journalists] are interested in. It takes a few seconds. It allows you the option to focus your distribution list on people who are most likely to run with the story.”

    It can be a humbling experience to promote a story angle you know is great but can’t get reporters to look at. It gives you a leg up if you act like a pro.

    Here’s how to reach out to media outlets, interact with journalists, and ace that interview.


    • 1 •

    YOUR ONLINE NEWSROOM These days, reporters tend to find sources through search engines. Yet organizations arrange their sites as if journalists were typing your URL into a browser, says Andrew Davis, author of “Brandscap- ing.” When members of the media find you, the search engine may lead them in through a back door, via LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, news stories, or blogs.

    That means changing the way you approach your newsroom—and your website. You need rich con- tent optimized for search, drawing bloggers, reporters, editors, and producers to you and your quot- able experts.

    “Not making simple, obvious visual material available at the point at which you interest a journalist is kind of unforgiveable in 2014,” Mark Jones says. “And yet most people do.”

    If you want the ink, give reporters, editors, and producers what they want. The following will help build both your relationships with journalists you know and your SEO with those searching for sources:

    • A REAL CONTACTS PAGE. Include phone numbers. Check your SEO by Googling yourself, using phrases like “Acme Inc. media contacts” and “Acme press contacts.” (Most journalists won’t use the term “newsroom” to describe your corporate newsroom.) A Pulitzer Prize-winner at a major Ameri- can paper wants to tear his hair out when all he finds is an email address or, worse yet, a Web form, which leaves him uncertain of whether his message really went through. He recognizes that PR is a tough job, he says, and he respects those who do it well. But often publi- cists are hard to reach when there’s a fast-breaking story. “Generally,” he says tartly, “ if I leave an email stating my urgency, I hear back four days or so later from some apologetic flack, hoping that the response is not too late.” Make it easy to reach you.

    • MEANINGFUL BOILERPLATE. Want a reporter to click away and search for a competitor without even calling you? Scrub all significant information from your “about us” page (location, size, reve- nue, number of employees). Mask your business in mystical blather. Then you may end up with a description like this: “Our mission is to serve by manifesting a shift in the retail paradigm—one in which beauty, experience, and magic are composed onto a revolutionary platform...” So what does the above company do? It sells carpets (not magic ones) and home design. A bewil- dering array of organizations won’t even tell you where they are headquartered or describe their business in terms a reporter would use. Think of how a reporter might describe you (“Telefónica, a Spanish telecommunications company...”). Crank out a description along those lines.


    • 2 •

    • A HIGH-RESOLUTION IMAGE GALLERY. Not only do many organizations fail to provide these, the images they do post often don’t meet the media’s quality standards. Why pictures? Because they are heavily shared and turn up high in searches. Jeremy Porter of the marketing agency Definition 6 recalls his first job out of college, representing a toilet manufacturer. A dud of a client, he thought. But when he and a photographer visited the factory, they found a quality-control guy inspecting thousands of toilets lined up on the floor. The photographer shot a picture, and the Associated Press distributed it worldwide, spreading the brand name in a way a press release never could have.

    • VIDEO. TV and other media with declining staffs are increasingly interested in using B-roll, or raw footage of factory floors, hospital staff at work, or other areas of interest. Eighty-one percent of bloggers and traditional media post outside video, affording an “opportunity for communicators including placement of unedited video on media websites,” according to D S Simon Productions’ 2014 Web Influencers Survey. Chrysler makes it easy to download HD video, says Ed Garsten, a former CNN correspondent and bureau chief who heads Chrysler Digital Media. The stories help TV reporters decide whether the visuals are sufficient “to cover stories or, frankly, cannibalize what we’ve done, and pull a video or some sound bite.”

    • EMBED CODES. Media outlets want readers and viewers to watch video on their own websites. That means that if you want an outlet to use your video, offer embed codes.

    • INFOGRAPHICS. Infographics are a great way to spread your brand or research on the Internet. Coca-Cola has a liberal reuse policy for infographics. It successfully pitched a graphic about its #5by20 program, through which the company seeks to empower women, to the Daily Beast. The graphic was also a success on social media.

    • OPTIMIZE FOR MOBILE. Journalists don’t live behind desks. They search for information on the scenes of fires, shootings, conferences and sporting events. When a crisis such as a hurricane takes out power and Internet access, they file updates and access websites through their smartphones. Many journalists also report live from industry events, such as a technology conference or product launch. Make it easy on them by using responsive design. Besides, it’s just plain smart to do so. More than a billion people own a smartphone and access the Web through handheld devices, says Ashley Brown, who leads digital communications and social media for The Coca-Cola Company. Simplify your design and be concise, remembering that people are reading your copy on a small screen.

    http://media.dssimon.com/2014webinfluencerssurvey http://www.thedailybeast.com/witw/articles/2013/04/03/coca-cola-s-5x20-initiative-empowering-female-entrepreneurs.html


    • 3 •

    • USEFUL BLOGS AND STORIES. By contracting with writers to create content, U.S. Waterproofing increased visits to its website thirtyfold, to 30,000 a month, in just 17 months. Stories that boost your SEO also bring journalists in search of experts to quote. But avoid copy choked with boosterish prose, industry jargon, and silly superlatives. Stumped for story or video ideas? Rewrite your press releases to read like stories, and lead with a person, rather than the product. Gather ideas from your sales staff or customer service warriors: What are your most frequently asked questions? Answer them. Google auto-fills are another great source of ideas.

    • EXPERT PROFILES. Post bios and descriptions of your executives and other sources. Include video clips, speeches, and interviews (both in-house and media) so TV producers can determine whether your experts would have a good on-air presence. Add high-resolution photos, and link to articles, books, and white papers they have written to help draw searchers to your experts. For example, Anders Jeppsson, global head of gaming at BlackBerry in Malmö, Sweden, raises his profile and SEO by linking from a bio page to company information, organizational videos, media stories, and other content.

    • BRAND JOURNALISM. This is a far bigger topic than can be dealt with in a bullet poin