When you give reporters what they need, you get more and better media coverage.
It sounds simple. But we become so focused on what we want from the media that we sometimes forget to consider their needs. If you help them do their job, yours will be easier, too.
You can’t cater to every request. Reporters often want access to information they cannot have.
What they need is a good story.
Every day, sometimes every hour, journalists must “feed the beast.” It could be a magazine article, a news story, a blog post or a tweet. They are forever filling an empty space.
Here are five ways you can help journalists cover your organization.
Be a Source. Reports rely on sources for several aspect of their job. A source can be someone who keeps journalists informed of the latest developments on the topic they cover. A source can also be someone who offers background information, or shows a reporter where to find it. Or, a source can be a subject matter expert they call upon to provide analysis and commentary for their stories.
Offer News Tips. There is a difference between a news tip and a pitch. It comes down to intent and delivery. If the information is valuable and its publication would be mutually beneficial, you are providing a news tip. If you push a self-serving story that is of no use to a journalist, it shows a lack of concern or respect. As an analogy, a professional sales person helps customers make wise choices. And then there are the cold callers. Don’t be a PR telemarketer.
Provide Quotes. Every news story needs quotes. They are hard to get. A reporter has to find someone with something to say and then convince that person to speak on the record. Quotes are statements that journalists hear with their ears, in person or over the phone. Or, in some cases, quotes can be taken from a digital conversation. Press release quotes don’t count; journalists have no easy way to verify that the person quoted actually said that. Let your people talk.
Share Your Data. Reporters always need facts to back up stories. Data-driven journalism is on the rise. Data you gather on industry trends, for example, could be repurposed for media consumption. Not everything is a trade secret. Sometimes, it is worth more to share information than to hoard it. Being the source of valuable data, builds your influence as an industry leader.
Facilitate News Gathering. Facilitators are the people who help reporters get all of the above. They come in many forms: the mayor’s press secretary, a friendly courthouse clerk, a CEO’s administrative assistant, a political operative or a corporate communicator. You can be that person.
Don’t be a palace guard, but don’t become a concierge either. Your relationship with journalists should be a strategic alliance: mutually beneficial, sometimes guarded, and always professional.
To borrow from the Rolling Stones, you can’t give reporters everything they want. But if you try, you can give them what they need.