At GingerComms, our clients are a mixture of PR agencies and inhouse PR and marketing teams.
So the people we work with are all experts in media relations. But there are some key differences in terms of what we do in providing a specialised service targeting national news media, and other aspects of PR activity.
In fact, sometimes what we do is the opposite of what you’d do if you were wanting to land feature coverage, get your brand on the product pages of an outlet.,or promote an event.
As such, we often get asked questions by bemused clients about why we work in the way we do.
Here are some of our most frequently asked questions and what we say in reply, which we hope will be helpful to anyone pitching to national news desks.
And if you’ve any other questions for us, not featured below, do get in touch 🙂
1) Why can’t we put the brand name in the headline of the release?
This is the kiss of death for a news release. Unlike releases written to highlight things like product launches, business acquisitions/mergers, or events and partnerships, the key to achieving national news coverage is to make your story editorially sound. It needs to feel like a news story, which is why we most often use consumer research to create a brand new ‘asset’. The release therefore needs to highlight the meat of the story – which are the findings of the study – before discussing the brand that commissioned it. Although the fear is that the brand mention will get lost if it’s not high up the release, the reverse is true. A busy news editor who only has time to skim the top of each release will send the copy straight to trash if it seems like it’s selling something – which is what happens if the brand name is in the headline. The only caveat is if the brand IS the story – eg Nike has just bought Adidas. If you’re using research as the story, then the research IS the story – it needs to come first.
2) Why can’t we have bullet points, brand logos and notes to editors in the release?
This marks your release out as a PR release rather than news copy. News desks are sent copy from numerous wires – such as PA – which is written as a journalist would write it, and is print ready. That’s the way to pitch to them – send copy that could be slotted straight into the page. Logos, bullet points, product images and extensive notes to the editor will mean the release looks like a piece of marketing material, and not fit for news desks. So cut back on the PR froth, and send something that is easy for editors to digest and use.
3) Why do you need to send the story out so early in the morning?
News conferences usually start at around 9.30am – so we want to get our release across about an hour before this, in the hope that it will be picked up to be discussed at conference. If you’re wanting print coverage to land the following day, unless you’ve got an amazingly strong, ‘stop press’ story, there’s no point in sending after the conference. You’ll need to wait until the following morning.
4) Why can’t you tell us exactly what feedback you got from the news desk sell in?
We sell in to news desks every day. This consists of us putting the story on our wire, and going directly to our contacts on the news desks. Even we know a contact really well (ie he was best man at our wedding, or she’s our sister-in-law) we know they won’t have time to give us useful feedback. They are incredibly time poor – the best we get is ‘sounds good’, ‘I’ll give it a go’, or ‘thanks’. Or silence. Only time will tell whether the story will land the next day.
5) Why aren’t you following up on the sell in, to find out if journalists are going to use the story?
Like everyone, journalists hate being chased. And as we sell in every day, we would end up irritating the hell out of them if we chased every lead, or committed the cardinal sin of asking why a story didn’t land, even if they seemed keen when we sent it across.
So we hardly ever follow up, and if we do, it’s a gentle nudge by email at the very most.
Our business relies on us achieving national news coverage – that’s what we’re paid to do. So our tried and tested methods – don’t lead with the brand, send across news copy early in the day, don’t ask for feedback, and hardly ever follow up – are what work best for us and allow us to provide coverage guarantees.
So try these tricks of the trade when you next do a news desk sell in. And let us know how you get on.