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5 ways of working that will make journalists fall in love with you

February 13, 2019

In honour of Valentine’s Day, with coupledom and love in the air, we wanted to take some time to celebrate that very special relationship that is one of the foundations of our industry – the bond between PRs and journalists.

It’s a given that PR practitioners and journalists need each other. Yet we all know that need is not always the best basis for a healthy and rewarding partnership. Resentment can develop when a relationship is based only on the wants of each individual, especially if one side feels that their own needs are not appreciated and understood by the other.

Many people working in PR understand the way that journalists work, yet many do not. And it’s difficult to connect meaningfully with a potential partner if you don’t really know what makes them tick, and what their world looks like.

The key to making journalists fall for you is to identify what they need. As a Valentine’s Day gift to you, we’d like to share five tips that help you do just that:

  1. Step one is always to identify the ‘sweet spot’. Before making contact with your chosen journalist, ensure you have established that all important sweet spot in your PR story. This is the overlap of what the client wants to say and what the media will be interested in – the Holy Grail in PR. This angle must not seem advertorial – too many brand messages will diminish the value of the content and sabotage the success of placing it with the media. A journalist cannot justify to their editor running something that feels like an advert – they need to provide interesting and relevant information to their readers. So prepare something tantalising for them that will get their hearts racing.
  2. Step two – once you’ve developed a juicy angle for the media, now take time to understand your audience. For all journalists this will be producing content that their editor loves. But what this content is, and how you can help them produce, it will vary from person to person. So it’s important to always research a journalist before making contact. Find out what their beat is, what they’ve written recently, how they like to be approached (via a media database like gorkana, or by checking their social profiles). Once you make contact, ask them many questions. When do they like to be contacted? How do they like a pitch to be presented to them? Do they like to be chased or does no contact mean they are not interested? Why didn’t they like an idea? What would make that idea better? Get to know how they work and melt their hearts by becoming the PR who helps them by giving them what they need when they need it.
  3. Step three – you’ve got your target, so the next step is to pitch perfectly. Send punchy and informative missives, not long complicated messages. Remember that journalists receive thousands of pitches from PRs every week. And will only spend a short amount of time scanning your message before deciding whether to read on or delete. Get straight to the point – be clear about why you are getting in touch and what you can offer. The subject line is important, as are the first couple of sentences. Do not include anything that is too branded or is hard to decipher. Be clear, concise and clever to get their attention.
  4. Step four – give them content they can use. When sending over information about your product/campaign/story, write news copy rather than a PR release. This is as relevant for sending information on an event for a diary page as it is for pitching new consumer research. Journalists love being able to cut and paste rather than having to wade through lines of irrelevant information in order to carve out the story. Use plain English and drop the jargon or corporate speak (eg, write ‘people’ not ‘consumers’, and ‘holidays’ not ‘experiences’). Think about the tone of the publication that he or she writes for, and emulate that style. The easier the content is to use, the more the journalist will enjoy working with you.
  5. Step five -say thank you. If a journalist writes up a piece based on your content, always get it touch to say thank you (and sending a present is sometimes a nice touch). You want to build a mutually beneficial and longstanding relationship with this person, and ghosting until you next want to get into bed with them is bad form. Be polite, thoughtful and kind. And next time you get in touch, they’ll hopefully remember what a catch you are.

By Ellie Glason, Associate Director at GingerComms and Ginger Research

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