Public relations pros have their work cut out for them.
As news publications undergo major staffing cuts or fold outright, many PR pros find it harder and harder to stay connected with journalists. Still, if PR
pros think they have it rough, they should consider the long hours and notoriously low pay of the reporters they know.
According to a 2015 survey, newspaper reporter came in at the top of the “worst
How can PR pros help? Here are a few ways to can make life easier for our beleaguered counterparts:
Keep it brief
Some reporters receive hundreds of email pitches per week. When you send your pitch, don’t drone on and on; get to your point. Bullet points are a smart
idea. If one or more of your outlined story ideas piques their interest, they’ll ask for more information. The reporter will probably appreciate your
Unless you’re sending a lengthy press release or have been given specific information to mention from your client, don’t provide every detail in your
initial pitch. In the age of email pitching, send a couple of paragraphs, not a novel, to get your point across.
Some executives expect reporters to take them at their word when they talk about their organization’s success. PR pros know this isn’t the case. Most
reporters will do some fact-checking or speak with additional sources.
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Interview at least three sources per story. Providing contact information for sources can help. Make a reporter’s job easier by doing that legwork in
advance. Line up sources before you pitch: Offer customers, partners or other third parties who might be a good fit for the story. Vet your potential
sources before offering them; sometimes a bad experience can sour a previously happy customer. Double-check; don’t assume.
Data can give a story more substance. If your pitch includes basic statistics, survey results or links to related research, the reporter will have a
significant head start on conducting research. If your client didn’t provide any research or you couldn’t conduct your own, it’s acceptable to cite someone
else, as long as you give the source credit. Digging for usable data in advance of sending a reporter your pitch adds value to your story—and to your
reputation as a colleague.
How can you grab someone’s attention quickly in today’s world, where the average attention span is something like eight seconds? Offer compelling visuals
with your pitch.
Include photos or infographics. Rather than weighing down your pitch with attachments, upload photos online and send the reporter a link.
If you are on a tight deadline, let the reporter know you have visuals available to accompany the piece.
Honor a reporter’s time and deadline
Reporters work hard to meet deadlines and are under constant stress. As newsrooms shrink, reporters must do more and more with less and less.
When you do gain reporters’ attention, respect their time. If they’ve selected your pitch out of hundreds, be prompt in your communication. If they need
more information or request additional sources, jump at the opportunity.
Honor their deadlines, too. Ask right away when they plan to publish or complete the story; that way you’ll know exactly how much time you have to provide
missing information. It’s important not to keep a reporter waiting—especially if you’re aware of his or her deadline. Providing information quickly is the
best thing you can do to help. If you promise something, deliver it in a timely fashion.
Michelle Messenger Garrett
is a public relations consultant, speaker and award-winning writer with more than 20 years of agency, corporate, startup and Silicon Valley experience.
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