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Think Like a Reporter for More PR Wins

For three years I worked at The Oregonian—a top 25 newspaper. While there, I saw major news break: September 11, U.S. troops invading Iraq, the Bush/Gore election snafus, to name a few. It was an exciting first “real” job to have out of college – and I learned a lot. My editor called it “baptism by fire.”

Not to generalize, but one of the many things I learned during that experience is that reporters often have similar personalities and ways of processing information. Having been on the “inside”, and now working in a PR role, I feel I am better prepared to successfully pitch a story on behalf of my clients.

Here are 4 Ways You Can Think Like a Reporter and Create More PR Wins:

1. Reporters have an insatiable need for information; they want all the information so they can choose what parts to cover and what parts to discard. This is actually what I miss most about the newsroom: knowing the full story.

How to turn this into a PR win: Provide the information you want a reporter to have but be prepared to answer any question they may ask immediately; this includes the difficult questions your clients may not want answered. A reporter does not want to have to wait for you to get the answer.

2. Reporters are inundated with options (i.e. press releases, pitches, etc.). It is not uncommon for a reporter or beat editor to receive a hundred news releases in a single day.

How to turn this into a PR win: Assuming you have targeted the correct reporter or beat, make sure your press release or pitch is short, to the point and includes a catchy subject line. I threw away countless press releases every day that:
• Were longer than one page
• Required more than a scan to determine the point
• Used a lot of “marketing speak”—this was a particular pet-peeve
• Didn’t include an intriguing subject line

3. Reporters work under crazy deadlines. A lot of reporters—definitely not all—are huge procrastinators and work up until their deadline.

How to turn this into a PR win: Write your press release and/or pitch in a way that could be copied and pasted into a column and is written in a bulleted format—a just the facts ma’am style—so they can do their own piece. From personal experience I can tell you I chose stories that used this sort of format when I needed to fill 7 to 10 inches and was on tight deadline.

How can you do both in under a page? The best way is to write a traditional-styled “story” (i.e. press release format) and include a “fast facts” box somewhere on the page.

4. Reporters are not your promoters and hate being treated this way. Reporters likely do not care about your new product or event. It’s their job to report the news and/or tell stories their readers would find compelling. Reporters can feel undermined as a professional when a press release is more of an advertisement than a news tip.

How to turn this into a PR win: Find or create a news hook to compel a reporter to cover your product or event.

About Jocelyn Broder

Jocelyn Broder is vice president at Robin Tracy Public Relations. She has managed the communications efforts of one of the world’s most recognized brands–Coca-Cola–and launched turn-key communications initiatives for some of the world’s most respected ministries, non-profit organizations, authors and publishers (including two book campaigns that made all four national best-seller lists). Before finding her love for PR, Jocelyn was a writer at The Oregonian, a top 25 newspaper.

(Image Credit: Close Up of The Thinker by Brian Hillegas)