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11 Ways to Get a Journalist's Attention

Lauren Eichmann

Because of our close ties with the media, clients frequently ask, “What type of stories appeal to journalists?”

What does the media find intriguing? How can I best express my expertise and thought leadership? How will a product, service or news announcement sound interesting to the media? Is it interesting and newsworthy? 

What you find to be an habitual business process, another client win, or simple initiative (for example, what your company is doing to be more environmentally friendly) may actually be an interesting story to a reporter. Those closest to a project frequently lack the insight to know what will resonate with the media.  As such, it’s oftentimes a good idea to have an outside observer (such as a PR firm) partake in meetings that discuss current client projects or a company-wide program.

Here's a list that outlines just some of the ways to capture the attention of a reporter:

1. Generate a Top 10 List. Reporters frequently enjoy Top 10 lists because they convey your expertise, are usually interesting for readers, and are something a reporter can easily post without investing a lot of time and energy into interviews and research. As a bonus, Top 10 lists also work well with social media; for example, it can be a quick write-up for bloggers (take this post, for example). 

2. Compile Tips or Advice. If you can translate your industry expertise into specific tips or advice, reporters know your knowledge can be relevant to their readership. For example, one of our clients is well-versed in designing mobile applications. Taking that knowledge, we created a pitch outlining the “Top 5 Apps for Holiday Shoppers.” It was a timely angle that provided useful content to consumers, while at the same time identified the client as an expert in this area. The “Top 5 Apps” pitch was turned into a slideshow article featured on eWeek.  

3. Identify a Trend. Either identify a trend or join in the conversation. If you’re seeing recurring coverage about a topic in which you could provide commentary, take a stance. If reporters know you can comment on stories related to that particular topic -- and that you have a strong opinion -- they’re more likely to give you a call. Even better, let reporters know what’s trending right now in your specific industry.

4. Make a Prediction. Along the lines of identifying a trend, what’s “up-and-coming” in your industry that no one knows about yet (or hasn't mentioned)? Reporters like to feel they have inside access to information that will resonate with their readership. If you can forecast a potential trend, and give supporting examples of why this will be popular in the future, you also increase your chances of landing an interview.  

5. Coin a Phrase or Keyword. In this blog post, Ken Gaebler talks about the term for Google-speak. What’s it called? Googlese? Maybe Googlish? By identifying a term, you are thereby identifying yourself as a thought leader in the space.


6. Ride the Current News Cycle. Journalists want to cover stories related to the major news of the day. Is your family-owned bakery making 1,200 pastries a day, and donating a large percentage of those proceeds to Haiti relief efforts? Are you running a special promotion for the Olympics? Do you have a business practice that plays into a reporter’s desire to cover new “green” innovations? Reporters like to hear about these kinds of things. Find a way to tie your own story into those already being covered.

7. Add an Element of Controversy. Many reporters thrive on writing about controversial topics, as their role is to serve as watchdogs -- covering relevant stories that expose wrongdoings or relay important information. If you can deflate a commonly held belief, admonish a certain trend or point out certain inaccuracies about something, you may get your voice heard. Just make sure you have facts that support your statement.

8. Develop Charts/Hard Data. Journalists oftentimes use hard data as the outline for a story, with someone’s insight to add the color. They are essentially seekers of the truth -- weighing the facts, presenting evidence and calling upon insight from experts to support a certain story, whatever it may be. If you can provide reporters with additional facts or graphics, you are more likely to find your way into the article. After all, data attribution is important. See our previous post on data-driven PR.  

9. Provide Access to an Alternate Source. Since reporters must be objective in their coverage, they cannot present one viewpoint within a story without at least mentioning the counter-viewpoint. If you can give reporters a tip for another third-party source to comment on an issue, they’ll value your input and help (and likely return to you again for your insight). For BtoB companies, providing a case study of a client who has successfully used your product or service, can do wonders. They’ll be more inclined to likewise talk with you.

10. Work Out an Exclusive. Many reporters thrive on being the first to break a story. Giving exclusivity for a particular hot story increases the chances that they’ll want to talk.

11. Consider the Human Interest Angle. If you’re introducing a new product to market, consider the story behind it. While some publications will just request basic details of the new product, feature reporters will want to know its impact to society. How will someone’s life change as a result of this product or service? Do you have a case study that talks about how it’s currently being used?  

Keep these tips in mind, and hopefully you’re well on your way to generating story angles you traditionally didn’t consider media-worthy.

It can be a good idea to take a step back from your company and identify the articles you find most intriguing when you read your daily newspaper or industry magazine. Sometimes all it takes is thinking like a journalist for a day.

What other techniques am I missing? Let us know in the comments!