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What Do Reporters Really Want? We’ve Made It Our Mission to Find Out

Jeff Stehlin

In the world of public relations, one thing is always true -- media relations is just part of the equation. A pitch may be perfect and the topic newsworthy, but getting coverage is quite the up-hill battle without support from reporters.

At Walker Sands, we pride ourselves on strong reporter relationships. However, there’s always more we can learn about what makes a pitch resonate or what reporters are looking for when it comes to engaging stories. To keep a steady pulse on the ever-changing world of journalism, over the past few months we’ve had the opportunity to host a number of Chicago reporters in our office!

First, Mark Lazerus, Blackhawks beat writer at the Chicago Sun-Times, joined us. Then, Danny Smith, author and freelance journalist for publications like Runner’s World, Huffington Post and Vows Magazine, stopped by. Most recently, Roy Santoro, executive producer at FOX Chicago, and Adina Klein, segment producer of Good Day Chicago, paid us a much-welcomed visit.

(Mike Santoro [left], president of Walker Sands, sits down with Roy Santoro [middle] and Klein [right] to talk about a day in the life at FOX Chicago)

In addition to talking about life as a journalist, each reporter shared insight on how to improve our outreach practices. When to pitch, what to pitch, what makes reporters tick and what makes them respond -- we got the inside scoop direct from Chicago’s best.

Even if the tips are ones we've heard before, they're a great reminder of the PR fundamentals reporters are actually paying attention to. Highlights included:
  • Include visuals: When pitching for television, visuals win out. Even the greatest stories can fall flat (or not even make it on air) if you don't support them with an interview or video. This is where thought leader media training comes in handy, or our video department.
  • Remember the larger story: A pitch connected to a trend or event is always stronger than one that's not. Reporters may not be rejecting your pitch itself, but rather may fail to see how it fits into a narrative readers are interested in hearing more about. Make that connection for them by highlighting potential trends stories in your pitch.
  • No two reporters are the same: Some like follow-up pitches, some like social media interactions. A few even prefer the occasional phone call. There's no universal best way to contact reporters. What proves more valuable is learning what individual reporters enjoy most and then developing strong relationships based on those preferences over time. It's never a bad idea to ask a reporter what works best for him or her.
  • Focus on the people: Use people to build a compelling corporate narrative that resonates with readers. Whether it's a member of the leadership team, a board member, an employee or even an intern, reporters are always looking for new and unique ways to approach a story. By sharing the experiences of those on the front lines, reporters are in a better position to connect with readers.
(Lazerus [left] with Mike Santoro [right] after talking all things hockey)


Inviting reporters to our office is just one of the many ways we’re always working to ensure our clients get the coverage they deserve. For our Chicagoland clients in particular, developing relationships with reporters in our own community helps us secure great local coverage. Plus, who doesn’t like spending lunch talking about the Blackhawks?

Are you a reporter and interested in speaking at Walker Sands? Or know a reporter who might be? Give us a shout on Twitter @WalkerSands!