5 Hidden Truths Reporters Haven’t Told You

newsroom/television studio
As both a reporter and public relations professional, I’d like to let small business owners and nonprofit professionals in on five lesser known truths about news-gathering and coverage.

Reporters Focus On Who They Know

Reporters may focus on familiar names in their email box, and many are more likely to return calls from people with whom they have had a successful working relationship. Deadlines are a reporter’s bread and butter, and they need reliable story sources to meet those deadlines.

Subject Lines Are Key

Of course, many stories garner media coverage for reasons that have nothing to do with who the reporters know. Compelling, relevant subject lines help reporters cut through the clutter and select the best stories to cover.

Tips for interesting subject lines include:

  • Begin with dates when time-sensitive
  • Put the most important words first
  • Appeal to the reporter’s specific interests and beat

Paying special attention to a reporter’s preferences is very helpful when requesting coverage for your event, product launch, or human interest story. Sometimes, I find myself on the phone pitching a story for a public relations client, and then I discover a reporter’s other interests or current stories.

Stories From Everywhere, Including Advertising

Reporters glean story ideas from many sources, not just their editors. People often don’t realize that the advertising department can also be an important catalyst for a story. For example, local newspaper editors may learn that a recent advertiser has a deeper story and decide to publish a feature. Reporters may also walk down the street, see an interesting sign or billboard, and contact the business or organization.

Hometown newspapers are more likely than others to do a feature on your business alone. They often print press releases as well, as long as the release reads as though a journalist wrote it. Don’t make the mistake of writing a sales-oriented press release. If your business is particularly inspiring, or if you have a visual story to tell, you may even end up on television.

Your Competitors Are Important

While I’ve had clients that did not wish to be covered alongside their competitors, such stories are often the best way for a business to get a media mention. Reporters may reference your competitors in any story, but trend stories often require such information. Ideally, you and your public relations professional would position your business so that it stands above the others in the trend story. Also, if you offer the reporter multiple sources for their story, the story will be easier, and therefore more likely to be run.

Some Reporters Hate The Phone

Preferred follow-up strategies vary among reporters and editors. Some don’t mind phone calls on every story, while others never answer their phones. If possible, get to know a reporter’s preferences and avoid calling them during deadline days and hours.

Upcoming Free Webinar On Public Relations Strategies and Mistakes

If you sign up for my email list, you’ll receive my free report: “7 Budget-Eating Marketing and Public Relations Mistakes.” I’m also hosting a free, interactive webinar that will dive deeper into the pros and cons of various methods of gaining publicity.

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