“What do journalists want?” As a PR consultant, I hear this question all the time when I'm speaking with sustainable business owners. Because if you can understand what journalists want, and how to give it to them, you’re going to maximise your chances of great coverage for your business.
The good news is the answer is pretty simple. Although journalists might seem like another – somewhat intimidating – species, they’re just like the rest of us. Like you and me, a journalist wants to be able to do their job as well and efficiently as possible. So, when planning your PR campaign, the key thing is to think about how your story can help journalists do their job rather than how they can help you by writing about you. What might this look like? Here are a few things journalists want to do their job…
A great story
Needless to say, journalists are always looking for strong stories that are relevant to their publication. If you’ve read their work, are confident that your story is the type of thing they’d cover and can tailor your pitch to clearly outline why it’s a good fit for them, you’ll be in a great place. Bonus points if you have great data, spokespeople and case studies to help them craft a brilliant article.
On the flip side, if your story isn’t that interesting to anyone outside your business, why would a journalist want to cover it? Rather than sending a press release as a tick box exercise to please stakeholders, consider whether this story is going to add value to your target publications and their readers.
It’s not always possible but it can help if you’re able to offer your story as an exclusive. Each publication is trying to run new, original stories that are different to what their competitors are featuring. So exclusive access to a strong story, data or case study can be a real draw for a journalist.
Journalists often have short turnaround times and tight deadlines to meet. If you're able to get them the information they need as quickly and efficiently as possible, you're going to stand out in their memory as a good and helpful contact. Particularly when they're in a tight spot, giving them all the information they need in one place is key. A journalist will have so many emails in their inbox that they don't want to have to check through five different emails from you to check the information that they need. So, when you're writing a press release or a pitch, make sure you include as much information as possible and as is relevant. This way it's really, really clear and easy for them to get all the information they need, and decide whether that's a story for them.
Someone that follows instructions
If a journalist has asked for something specific, follow their instructions and give them what they’ve asked for in the way they’ve asked for it. Every journalist is different. You might know 10 other journalists who prefer to have their images sent via a non-expiring Dropbox link. But if the particular journalist you’re talking to has asked for a high-res attachment, send them a high-res attachment.
It might be a deadline, a word count or a list of the information they need from you. If a journalist is giving direction, there’s a reason why they will have asked for information to be provided in that way. It’s because that’s what they need to do their job easily and well. If they ask for a quote of no longer than 100 words, giving them a 500-word quote isn’t helpful. You're giving them more work to do because they then need to spend additional time editing what you’ve sent.
Someone that’s easy to work with
It’s understandable that people sometimes feel intimidated by journalists. Remember, though, that they’re just people trying to do their jobs. Be honest, transparent and helpful – as you would when speaking with any other businesspeople, contacts or suppliers. As a talented business owner who has been able to build a great network, there's nothing stopping you from using the same skills to build up a positive relationship with a journalist.