TOP TIPS FOR CHANGEMAKERS #2
WHAT MEDIA WANT
There are a lot of ‘experts’ on social media, at conferences and writing books about PR and how to generate media coverage. And nearly every single one of them* makes it much more complicated than it really is. Generating media coverage is hard work but not complex when you understand a few basic rules about what the media want and how to give it to them. So in this blog, I’m going to download for you some of the things I’ve learnt over 25 years in communications and PR about what journalists are looking for so that you stand a much better chance of getting the coverage you deserve. Simples.
Journalists are human beings
Journalists are human beings. This means that they like to do business with other human beings – preferably ones they know. Just like you and I – they will prioritise opening an email or answering the phone to someone they know already. Just like you and I – they like people who are helpful and make them look good in front of their boss. And just like you and I – they have very limited time for idle chit chat during the work day.
What does this mean for you? You need to build relationships with your top 10 journalists based on being helpful, co-operative and understanding of the demands on them. So – read what they write and therefore are interested in; follow them on social media and share their content; answer their questions on Twitter or be helpful if you can – even if it’s not directly relevant to you; and only pitch a story to them if it’s TRUTH (see below).
Journalists are very busy human beings
Very busy and very stressed out human beings but human beings nonetheless. Think about what has happened to the media world over the past 15 years. Fifteen years ago, if you wanted to know what was happening in the world, you were still reading about it in the paper, listening to it on the radio or watching it on TV. Now, you can be on the Tube reading a breaking news story on Twitter on your mobile. At the same time, ad revenue for the traditional press has plummeted, costs are being cut and newsrooms all over Fleet Street are diminishing rapidly. No wonder journalists are stressed: expected to deliver more and more content with fewer and fewer people.
What does this mean for you? It means that the onus is on YOU to pitch them the right story not on them to work it out for you. It means you need to get to know their audience and make sure you’re pitching something that’s relevant to them (see below). It means you need to keep it short; be prepared and NEVER pitch to them when they are moments away from a deadline.
Journalists always want good stories
Notwithstanding how busy they are, there is one thing ALL journalists are interested in WITHOUT EXCEPTION: GOOD stories. They have a lot of content to create and very limited time or budget to create it. Forget the days when journalists would attend press conferences or press events – unless you’re the Queen or the Prime Minister, that’s never going to happen (well ok…it might happen…but don’t build your entire plan based on it because it probably won’t).
What does this mean for you? You need to go to them. With a GOOD story (see below).
A good story is TRUTH
This point is worth repeating: journalists are ALWAYS interested in GOOD stories. ALWAYS. But what is a good story? OK…you need to be able to tick at least four of these five criteria:
T – is your story TOPICAL?
R – is your story RELEVANT (to THEIR audience)?
U – is there anything UNUSUAL about your story?
T – is there a TENSION at the heart of your story
H – is there a HUMAN angle to your story?
What does this mean for you? Only ever pitch a GOOD story to a journalist. Pitching anything that doesn’t tick four out of five of these boxes will result in a) no coverage for you and b) no future relationship with that journalist whose time you’ve just wasted. Harsh but true.
That’s it…not really…
So that’s it: what media want. They want GOOD stories, that are topical, relevant, unusual, tense and human; pitched to them in a timely manner by people who’ve bothered to build a relationship with them.
It’s not a lot to ask! And of course it’s not ALL there is but it’s a great place to start.
What does this mean for you? Abide by these simple rules and you’ll improve your chances of coverage by 100%. And if you want to know how to keep improving on that performance, join the Actually community and watch out for our training, webinars and cheat-sheets.
Let’s ACTUALLY make a difference!
*There are some notable exceptions: I like Lucy Werner at The Wern who has a brilliant, no-nonsense approach to PR and Paul Blanchard at Right Angles whose book on PR is refreshingly clear and easy to follow.
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Phew! Doesn’t that sounds awesome?