By Jaymi McCann
Being a journalist isn’t that fun anymore. Gone are the days of boozy lunches, huge expense accounts and an unquestioned position of authority in society. Staff numbers are shrinking and so is the amount of time each reporter has to spend on a story. We want to do a good job, the industry is full of hacks who have pride in what they produce, but it is getting tougher.
So, good PRs can be a huge helping hand in bringing us the right stories at the right time. And, of course, if you scratch our backs, we’ll scratch yours.
How can you make your journalist contact’s life easier? Here’s a few tips:
1. Case studies are key.
I am certain you will have seen a rise of journalists asking for case studies over the past few years. They bring humanity to a piece, turn statistics into a reality and are what the reader really wants to hear about. But finding them is time consuming for even the most experienced of journalists and sometimes the simplest of case studies are the hardest to find.
So, make it easier. Have a few prepared before sending the story out. You will be surprised that even the driest of financial stories suddenly becomes interesting and moves further up the book when you have a mother-of-two talking about losing her house.
But, before promising a case story PLEASE make sure they are happy to talk to the press (all of the press, not just specific papers/mags), have enough different people to cover different publications and always, always have high quality photographs available.
2. Know that timing is everything.
PRs seem to be obsessed with anniversaries or notable weeks. I have been inundated with emails with messages along the lines of: “It’s International Sunburn Awareness Week, would you like to write about this wonderful new sunscreen?”
And I get it, I really do. It provides a useful hook to tag a product onto, it can encourage conversation and, indeed, raise that all-important awareness. But it’s BORING. Unless it is a big anniversary, like a centenary, or commemorating something major like a huge health issue then no one cares.
In fact, I have known editors who actively decided against otherwise strong stories BECAUSE it was the awareness week. They felt that the news agenda would be flooded – and they were right. If you know it is Sunburn Awareness Week, then so does every other clothes company, sun cream manufacturer, skin cancer charity and more. Even the most fantastic ideas can get lost in this quagmire and once it has been pitched and turned down it’s difficult to get it back on the table.
Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, but if a story is good, it will be good on any week of the year. You might be better off going against the grain.
3. Don’t ignore the Sundays.
This is a trick missed in my opinion. Despite the fact I worked on a Sunday paper I would frequently get emails about stories that were embargoed for Wednesday or Thursday and were therefore useless to me.
But, if one of them sparked my interest and I thought we could take the story on I would often contact the PR to find out if they had any research/case studies/angles up their sleeve.
This is a gift to the PR: here I am trying to drum up extra coverage for them that they didn’t expect, coming up with new ideas. But nine times out of 10 they would say no. They could have got two bites of the apple if they had just thought to keep something aside for the Sunday papers.