Giving Reporters What They REALLY Want
Source: Becky Myers and Deborah Buks
In today’s constantly moving, 24/7/365 news cycle, massive amounts of information are disseminated via social media, news outlets and other online sites – by everyone with a handheld device. Media outlets, in essence, are competing with their own audiences to get the news out. Reporters are not only under greater pressure to tell the news first, but are now expected to produce stories for their traditional print or broadcast outlet as well as for every other digital platform their media company has created. More work. Less time. Multiple daily deadlines. More distracted audience.
Reporters have precious little time or resources to remain competitive without a little help. They need accurate, concise, clear, and interesting information that can be quickly distributed to compete for the attention of audiences who now only spend 2 or 3 minutes on news snippets before moving on to the next.
Fortunately, every problem presents an opportunity for those willing to fill a clear need.
Here are some tips on how to give reporters what they need, and tell your story at the same time.
What reporters want and need in the current media environment
When a reporter contacts you, he or she usually needs information or an interview immediately, as they are almost always on an hourly or daily deadline now that news moves in real time. That means you don’t have the luxury of time to conduct research or bone up on your interview skills. They are looking for:
- Company spokespeople who are prepared with facts, numbers, analysis, trends, opinions and forecasts at the ready. Start by understanding your company. What can you say about your company, your product or service? What can’t you say? What topics can you speak about most effectively? Do you need to recruit someone else to speak? What trends and issues are being tracked, and who internally are the sources for this fast fact-gathering? This is a great time to update your online newsroom. Include news releases, fact sheets, bios, photos, graphics, video, white papers, etc. This saves the reporter, and you, a lot of time and helps to eliminate reporting errors.
- Sources who move fast. Ask about and respect deadlines. If you can’t meet their deadlines, then politely decline the interview opportunity by saying time or availability is the issue, rather than an unwillingness to speak. They’ll thank you for it and they’re more likely to call you the next time they need help on a story. Now, if you always beg off because it’s not convenient, expect to lose this reporter relationship.
- Spokespeople who speak in quotes. Reporters like to talk to prominent people, especially those who are quotable. The CEO or subject matter experts are great choices. Make sure these people within your company are prepared to speak. Anticipate issues and develop a Q&A to address those issues so you can winnow away all the excess information that doesn’t easily fit into a quote-sized sentence. That way, you can jump into a conversation quickly and be FIRST, and help the reporter be FIRST.
- Informed sources. What’s hot in your industry? How does your business fit in? How are you different? By consuming news about your own industry, you can more easily identify story angles a reporter will use, and avoid talking about “old news” that demonstrates you and your company are really out of the loop, and therefore of no use to a reporter who is trying to tell audiences what’s happening now and what’s expected next. Don’t be afraid to contact a reporter to introduce yourself and offer information or a perspective. Ask how you can help them fill a gap in their sources and need for information. They’ll appreciate the education and the offer, and you’ll get strategic clues to inform your media relations action plan.
- Helpful sources that know the reporter’s outlet, format, style and content history. When you have a story idea to share, make sure you are sharing with a reporter who actually covers your industry. Read their articles to learn more about the topics they cover so you can write an intelligent pitch letter to them (or avoid them if their reporting appears routinely inaccurate or sensational). Don’t waste their time, or yours, by sending them a news release or pitch that doesn’t matter to them or their audience. Follow them on social media and respond to their requests for help when it’s appropriate.
- Savvy sources that understand their audiences are too busy to read much. Audiences are much more likely to absorb a story told through photos, videos and graphics. In fact, that’s all most people will skim now in their device-driven lives. Telling your information visually –rather than in dated news release formats — may make the difference between winning and losing in the media relations game.
Keep these timely tips for meeting the needs of today’s harried reporters in mind as you develop your public relations strategies and build relationships with local reporters or with reporters in your niche. If you’re consistent in your delivery, provide quality story leads and move with velocity, reporters will start to know your name and be more willing to listen when you reach out to them. In fact, as Ward clients can attest, as a smart, proactive media relations program matures, you likely will find them reaching out to you whenever something comes up in your industry. Wouldn’t that be a level of achievement?
If you’d like to cause better communication with reporters who influence your key audiences, but aren’t sure how or don’t have the resources internally to work with the speed needed in this new media dynamic we live in today, contact us and let Ward show you how to get the results you seek.