Published on October 14th, 20110
Blog: Top tips for approaching journalists
Boom! asked journalists from 10 publications about their experiences of PR’s ’selling in’ stories to them. Below is a top 10 list of their DO’s and DONT’S when approaching a journalist;
1. Call to explain what the story is and why it’s relevant for that publication.
2. Make sure the contacts listed in press release are available for interviews once the press release has been sent out. This seems obvious but so many times the contact person listed and/or the relevant interviewee are unavailable.
3. Manage the interview i.e. if the interviewee is rambling, remind him/her that the journalist is on a tight deadline.
4. Research the publication. You should have a good idea when you call whether it is a story for them or not.
5. Know a bit about the journalist you are pitching to.
6. Include as much information as possible in the subject line and personalise your pitch.
7. Know if the title is a national or regional and how often it comes out. It is alarming how often a PR asks a journalist if the title is a weekly when it has ‘Week’ in the title.
8. Know when the publication goes to press. Knowing deadlines can be the difference between talking to a journalist and being told to call back another time.
9. Pay attention to what else is going on in your industry when pitching.
10. Give them industry gossip. You will be surprised by how often a journalist will repay you with favourable column inches.
1. Expect coverage based on a generic email you sent out.
2. Set up interviews and then tell the journalist that the whole conversation was on background. It’s awkward for the journalist and bad for the new relationship they thought they were developing.
3. Pitch a story that you don’t understand – it’s a complete waste of time for all concerned.
4. Ramble. Brevity is best, so keep your pitch short and to the point with enough relevant information. If the journalist wants to know more, they will ask questions.
5. Send an irrelevant pitch. If a journalist is on your media list but the story is not relevant to them, take them off it. You can lose respect that way.
6. Hound journalists. If they haven’t come back to you, there is usually a reason for it. But being too aggressive can actually repel them. A quick follow up call a few days after you send your pitch can help, but calling daily will just make the reporter angry.
7. Send flashy press kits. Journalists do not have time to wade through marketing material.
8. Exaggerate. Don’t make claims you can’t back up.
9. Use the phrase “Quick Question” in the subject line when following up a sell-in. Already the journalist knows there is no story so why should they bother answering?
10. Say “I know you’re on deadline, but can I talk to you about a story for next week?” If you know they are on deadline, wait until they are off it.
In creating these lists Boom! spoke to journalists from The Sunday Times, Broadcast, FX Week, Reuters, Computing, Media Guardian, TBI, Screen Daily, Media Week and C21.