If you work in public relations, or are a member of the media, you probably understand when we say there’s a love-hate, yet symbiotic, relationship between the two disciplines. While we both share the goal of creating stories and keeping audiences informed, tensions arise when we don’t take into consideration the other party’s needs and preferences.
We’d like to think that our experience pitching to the media over the years has given us a pretty good understanding of what makes them happy, and what makes them tick. Here are some lessons we have learnt so far:
Angles: People tend to adopt the saying “the more, the merrier” when dealing with journalists. Even though it’s important to provide as much information as they need to cover your story, force-feeding journalists with every single detail you know without sufficient context is a huge no-no. Over time, we’ve found that journalists are more interested in how your story can capture their readers’ interest than how much information you present to them on a plate. So, make sure your media release presents a clear angle and a strong hook in the first paragraph.
Headlines: Headlines can make or break your chance of achieving media coverage. Long, complicated sentences that drag on are a sure-fire way of getting your release sent to the trash bin. Instead, opt for a strong headline that gets straight to the point within eight to 15 words.
Language: Journalists won’t cover your story if they can’t understand it. Unless you’re pitching to someone covering a specific industry, leave the jargon out. Instead, be short, sharp and get straight to the point by using simple language. Proof reading your work allows you to check for flow and consistency, ensuring your points are clear enough to communicate your message.
Contacts: Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to get a hold of someone when you need them. Insert contact details (email and phone/mobile number) at the bottom of your media release, and if a member of the media happens to call, make sure you are available to speak to them.
Online presence: Journalists often come back to us asking for more information about our clients. Apart from it being in a brand’s interest to have a sufficient online presence, a study by Precious Communications and My News Desk has found that 74% of surveyed reporters habitually Google businesses featured in press releases. Save them the effort by linking them to your website or social media accounts.
While there’s no way to ensure your relationship with the media is top notch day in and day out, we hope these little insights set you on the right path to becoming a master of media engagement.