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Enter any editorial office, broadcast station or PR agency, and you may hear chagrins from both sides of the newsroom table: “Why won’t this journalist just get back to me?” or “Why does this PR contact keep pitching me stories we would never cover?”
There are vast misunderstandings between these two industries. Knowing what they are will help you get media coverage for your company — and enjoy the incredible benefits of PR.
Whether your company is managing its own PR efforts or working with a firm, here are five things journalists wish you knew about getting press coverage.
1. Usually, we’re looking for expert sources (not products and services to feature)
The top concern for PR pros is getting journalists to respond, according to The State of PR 2023 from Muck Rack.
It’s frustrating when your company’s carefully crafted pitches go ignored, but keep this in mind: A journalist’s job is to cater to their audience, not companies. Usually, that means educating their audience with valuable information. Pitch yourself as an industry expert first and foremost, not your products or services.
Although many articles benefit readers by showcasing certain products or services, these are often selected from a list of affiliate companies so the media company earns a slice of the sales.
Plus, journalists’ inboxes are flooded with pitches around products and services. It’s much more challenging for them to find credible experts before their deadline.
If you’re quoted as an industry expert, your company will be highlighted in the article and you’ll have the bonus of immediately establishing trust with a new audience. After a few of these inclusions, features focused entirely on your company will be easier to secure.
2. Your credentials matter more than your social media following
Sure, journalists may take a quick glance at your social accounts to see what type of content you’re posting. And yes, it might be a bonus if you have a large, engaged following.
However, there’s a misconception that social media following is the most important part of securing media coverage. The truth is, journalists care more about your credentials than how many followers you have. While social media might help journalists discover you, they’re looking for someone who can truly educate their audience.
Carefully consider how you establish credibility when introducing yourself as an expert source to the media. You can do this with:
- Qualifications (Ph.D., MD, CCWS, etc.)
- Associations (professor at a university, a rheumatologist at a hospital, etc.)
- Titles you’ve been given (owner of an award-winning salon, 40 under 40 recipient, etc.)
- Achievements (serial entrepreneur who’s sold several successful businesses, etc.)
- Press experience (trusted by The New York Times, Washington Post and beyond, etc.)
3. We probably won’t cover the same topic twice in a short period of time
Newsrooms and broadcast stations always look for a fresh story to keep their audience engaged. Still, a sample of a common pitch editors and producers receive: “I saw you recently covered the best glassware for dinner parties. Would you like to consider my company for upcoming coverage on glassware for dinner parties?”
Instead, pitch a fresh take on the topic: “I saw your story on glassware for dinner parties — it was a great read! If you ever need quick turnaround quotes on how to clean glassware after parties, the best glassware pairings for a soirée or any other related topics, I’d be happy to help. Our company specializes in elevating parties with beautiful dinnerware.”
On that note, if you’re monitoring journalist queries through a service like HelpAReporter.com (where journalists submit queries for expert sources), but you find you missed the deadline for a given story, it may still be worth simply reaching out to that journalist separately.
Let them know that you’re an expert in the beat they cover, provide your credentials and share that you’re available for future stories.
4. Short, succinct quotes make you our hero
You may think more is better when it comes to providing context on a particular topic, but journalists are looking for sources who can get to the bullet points of a subject immediately. Long, winding narratives mean more time transcribing and pinpointing which quotes to feature.
Prepare ahead of your interview so you come to it with the main points already. Think about what will make punchy, memorable quotes — then speak to the journalist slowly and clearly (this is helpful, whether they’re recording your conversation or transcribing in real-time).
These strategies will increase your chances of being contacted again for future stories.
5. If you’re not selected as a source, don’t take it personally
In addition to credentials their editor may specifically request, journalists consider these factors when selecting a source.
- Niche: We recently saw a journalist query for an auto insurance expert familiar with GAP insurance in California. With the need to constantly pitch fresh new stories and target particular keywords, editorial content is getting increasingly specific.
- Other sources: Journalists will consider how you contribute to the mix of sources. They’ll look for a variety of expertise to approach the story from different angles.
- Number of sources: Most pieces of content only need about two to three sources.
The best thing your company or PR team can do is build genuine relationships with journalists, in which you offer your support to them through expertise. This will help them finish their story on time and increase your chances of being a regularly featured expert source.
When you secure this media coverage, the benefits are vast. PR is a long-term strategy that can create a halo effect for your company, establishing you and your brand as an expert. This creates new opportunities for brand awareness, partnerships and increased revenue.