The press is stretched thin.
In addition to all the legwork that goes into finding, researching, and writing a good news story, reporters are now being asked to multitask like never before: to learn social media, incorporate video into their print stories, and to pick up slack from the many layoffs newsrooms have made over the last decade.
As if smaller staffs and more work weren’t problematic enough, traditional news outlets face increased competition from online sites such as Examiner.com
that aggregate content from citizen journalists. Now more than ever PR people need to think like journalists. Pitches must be tighter, less fluffy, and full of the facts; they include figures and trends that journalists can use to package a good story.
To think like a journalist, PR pros must look beyond Google News Alerts and Help A Reporter Out (HARO) and go straight to the many resources that can help them put together a solid story pitch that resonates with today’s media. Here are some resources to help build these pitches:
1. Industry associations
Industry Associations release newsletters, whitepapers, trend reports, and surveys that provide valuable information for journalists. These reports and newsletters also list opportunities for speaking engagements and industry awards as well.
For instance, The National Chicken Association
released a report about the amount of wings that would be consumed during the Super Bowl. Something like this could be parlayed into national and industry media opportunities for various types of clients.
You can also find good information for expert columns and op-eds that you can pitch to your local paper. Have the pitch tie-in with a national trend that could impact your client. Subscribing to a variety of SmartBriefs
, which is an e-newsletter that aggregates news for a variety of industries, is a great way to get started with this news.
2. Government websites
Across a variety of government websites, you can find information on everything from immigration to education and healthcare. For instance, websites such as Fedstats.gov
provide statistics from more than 100 government sites. Science.gov
provides links to scientific documents, research, and position papers from hundreds of federal agencies. Governing.com
has in-depth information regarding state and local governments, and StateMaster.com
gives you access to research and compare information from different states.
For more on government websites, check out Journalist’s Resources
3. University websites
Universities provide a wealth of information. In addition to educating students, these institutions perform research, host clinical trials, put on workshops, and more. Journalists are fond of expert sources with an academic background. Keeping an eye on news and information universities release can help PR people craft stories using these credible sources, producing more than a quick pitch with some bullet points about your clients.
For example, UCLA’s newsroom
posted a story about research that cited children as young as two years old have the ability to infer other people’s mental states and emotions. This type of data pairs well with any children’s toy, book, or electronic device that could assist with brain development.
4. Local resources
Local and community newspapers are great resources for journalists. If you live in a metropolitan area and trying to hook a reporter, look beyond what’s being written in the daily newspaper and reach out to the bedroom communities. You can often find trends, businesses, and ideas that will complement your pitch rather than compete with it.
For instance, there might be a farmer in rural Nevada whose focus on a new kind of crop could pair with another food business that just moved to town. Perhaps your client supplies linens, furniture, wine, etc., to that business. All of a sudden you’ve got an economic development story that goes beyond “new restaurant opens up.”
5. The wider media ecosystem
Just like media people, PR people are busy, too. But we cannot use our busy lifestyles as excuses to get stuck in our media comfort bubble. Taking in a healthy daily dose of news radio and/or podcasts, Internet TV broadcasts, and local television—it makes us better storytellers. Commit to opening up at least one or two long reads from your Twitter feed a few times a week to expand the depth of your knowledge. Stream your local NPR station instead of Pandora or Spotify during the day. One little nugget of news or one statistic can spark a brilliant idea that will help you land your next big placement.
Abbi Whitaker is owner of The Abbi Agency in Reno, Nev. A version of this story first appeared on the agency’s blog.