The press is stretched thin. In addition to all the legwork that goes into finding, researching and writing a good news story they are now being asked to multitask like never before: to learn social media, incorporate video into their print stories, and to pick up slack from the many layoffs newsrooms have made over the last decade.
As if smaller staffs and more work weren’t problematic enough, traditional news outlets face increased competition from online sites like Examiner.com and Business2Community that aggregate content from citizen journalists. Now more than ever PR people need to think like journalists. Pitches must be tighter, less fluffy and full of the facts, figures and trends that journalists can use to package a good story.
To think like a journalist, PR pros must look beyond Google News Alerts and HARO and go straight to the many resources that can help them put together a solid story pitch that resonates with today’s media.
Industry Associations release newsletters, whitepapers, trends reports and surveys that provide valuable information for journalists. These reports and newsletters also list opportunities for speaking engagements and industry awards as well. The National Chicken Association recently released a report about the amount of wings that would be consumed during the Super Bowl. Something like this could be parlayed into many national and industry media opportunities for various types of clients. You can also find good information for expert columns and op-eds that you can pitch to your local paper. Have the pitch tie-in with a national trend that could impact your client. Subscribing to a variety of Smartbriefs is a great way to get started with this news.
You can find information on everything from immigration to education and healthcare. Websites such as Fedstats.com provide statistics from more than 100 government sites. Science.gov provides links to scientific documents, research and position papers from hundreds of federal agencies. Governing.com provides in-depth information regarding state and local governments while StateMaster.com gives you access to research and compare information from different states.
Universities provide a wealth of information. In addition to educating students, these institutions perform research, host clinical trials, put on workshops, and more. Journalists are very fond of expert sources with an academic background. Keeping an eye on news and information universities release can help PR people craft stories using these credible sources, producing more than a quick pitch with some bullet points about your clients.
For example, UCLA’s newsroom recently posted a story about research citing children as young as two years old have the ability to infer other people’s mental states and emotions. This type of data pairs well with any children’s toy, book or electronic device that could assist with brain development.
Local and community newspapers are great resources for journalists. If you live in a metropolitan area and are trying to hook a reporter, look beyond what’s being written in the daily newspaper and reach out to the bedroom communities. You can often find trends, businesses and ideas that will complement your pitch rather than compete with it. There might be a farmer in rural Nevada whose focus on a new kind of crop could pair with another food business that just moved to town. Perhaps your client supplies linens, furniture, wine, etc., to that business. All of a sudden you’ve got an economic development story that goes beyond “new restaurant opens up.”
Listen, look, learn
Just like the media people we work with, we PR people are busy, too. But we cannot use our busy lifestyles as excuses to get stuck in our media comfort bubble. Taking in a healthy daily dose of news radio and/or podcasts, internet TV broadcasts, and even local television makes us better storytellers. Commit to opening up at least one or two long reads from your Twitter feed a few times a week to expand the depth of your knowledge. Stream your local NPR station instead of Pandora or Spotify during the day. One little nugget of news, one statistic, can spurn a brilliant idea that will help you land your next big placement.