Journalists – Giving Them What They Want


A great deal of effort spent on public relations is wasted simply because it doesn’t meet the requirements of journalists. Get a good understanding of what they want, however, and you can secure coverage and build the reputation of your organisation.

The vast majority of press releases that journalists receive go straight in the bin – that’s a huge amount of wasted effort on the part of the sender, never mind the journalist. So, what do they want? Following these guidelines will set you on the right road.

Knowledge of the program/publication/journalist. All journalists are focused on one thing – what will appeal to the audience. If a particular publication or programme is on your target press and media list then get to know it – track it on a regular basis. This will put you in a much better position in terms of ‘selling in’ news or pitching ideas – you will know what will appeal and what won’t. In addition, it’s much easier to put your ideas forward if you can reference recent stories/items covered by the relevant press and media, or the specific journalist.

Likewise, ensure that you are targeting named people and track down all the relevant contact details beforehand. If you can find out, in advance of any approach, how the journalist prefers to be contacted then that puts you one step ahead.

Understanding the timescales involved. It’s important to be aware of the deadlines that journalists are working to – you can then time your call so that you give yourself the best chance of having a discussion. Even if you have an interesting and worthwhile story your efforts will be wasted if you telephone a journalist when they are right up against deadline – they won’t want to speak to you. It could also make future approaches more difficult.

Understanding ‘news’. Any ‘news’ story pitched to a journalist must include essential ingredients. More than anything journalists are looking for the human interest angle – people. Ask yourself the following questions about your story – who does it benefit? Why is this news important? Who does it affect? What difference does it make to the man on the street? Ask yourself, from the journalist’s perspective, what’s in it for me?

Journalists are also looking for conflict and scandal in any news story. You might well want to avoid those elements but that means you need to ensure that others are included – something new, unusual, research findings, bucking the trend, facts and figures, change, well-sourced comment/information etc.

Packaging ‘news’. When a journalist receives your press release you have very little time to make an impact. Journalists aren’t interested in puff – boasts of how well the company is doing or reports of a ‘fantastic’ initiative. You must get the essence of your story in the first paragraph of the news release. Fail to do that and you will have lost the journalist. If the first paragraph does not sing ‘news’ then they simply won’t read any further. So, think of an inverted pyramid and get your ‘news’ upfront with the following paragraphs to support your copy and provide other relevant information. Editors edit from the bottom of a release up. So, the test is whether the first paragraph could stand alone – if that was printed would it get your news across?

Be aware too of the basic rules for setting out and issuing a pres

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