Think like a journalist in order to get media coverage

When it comes to getting local media coverage, you will need more than a local politician coming to your ribbon cutting in order to get coverage from Jeff Wright, Editor of Buffalo Business First.

“Ground breakings and ribbon cuttings – we simply don’t take those pictures,” said Wright. “We don’t cover those events typically, unless there’s something there other than the ground breaking and don’t tell me that Chuck Schumer is going to be there for them.”

Wright, who was part of a March 26 panel discussion, “Tight Budget? Earn Your Media,” was one of several representatives of local media on the panel. The panel included both journalists and public relation professionals talking about earned media, strategies and best practices in getting media coverage and attention. The discussion was an  AdLab monthly event, organized by the Advertising Club of Buffalo.

Even though having a politician at your event is not enough to garner coverage in and of itself,  Wright says that by changing the focus in your release from the event to the reason for the new building or expansion, and focusing on your company’s growth or investment, that is news Business First readers would be interested in knowing.

“If there is a ground-breaking or ribbon-cutting chances are there’s some growth going on and an investment that’s been made or an investment that is going to be made in the community,” said Wright. “That’s something that speaks to readers of Business First– which is economic growth. That’s what our news consumers want to read.”

Research your media outlets and know their audience
“Do your homework–know not just what you want but who you’re talking to what we need and what we do,” said Wright. “Know the reporter that covers the beat or industry that your client represents. It’s not a bad idea to have a (prior) relationship with that person, so that you’re not calling them for the very first time when you are pitching them an important story for a client. You need to have that relationship before that call.”

Think like a journalist

“If you are representing a client or organization, act like a journalist to hunt out the best stories that will excite a journalist,” said Lauren Hall, producer of “Winging It! Buffalo Style,” a lifestyle and entertainment morning program on CW 23. “If you sound like a salesperson pitching them a sale pitch, they are not going to want to tell your story. But if you come to them and tell them how this is going to benefit their readers or viewers, or excite people hearing about the story, then they are going to want to help you out.”

In order to think like a journalist, you need to remember that the priority for journalists is not your client, but the audience.

“You always have to bring everything back to the viewer’s benefit, or the reader’s benefit,” said Hall. “What will the viewer or reader take away from your (client’s) story?”

You also need to be able to sum-up, in one sentence, what you are going to tell the reader and why it is so interesting said S.J. Valesquez, Multimedia Content Coordinator for at The Buffalo News.

“Think of yourself as a consumer of news and what is appetizing to you as a consumer.” said Wright.

Use social media

In these days of social media and the web, most traditional media outlets also use websites, blogs Facebook and Twitter to share and gather story ideas.

“We get a lot of stories from people on Twitter,” said Valesquez  “We interact a lot with organizations on Twitter. If you have a company blog or press release online, say to us, ‘Hey, check this out.’ Not only will we read, but we might end up writing about it or retweeting it. I really encourage people to be active, not just present, but active. “

Hall suggests reaching out to journalist in different ways such as using Twitter.

“Maybe not talking to them about a specific story you want covered, but talk about something topical they are talking about or retweet them, something just to break the ice and establish a connection with them,” said Hall.

Other advice included thinking about the story you are pitching ahead of time and changing it or tailoring it to the type of media you are pitching, like you would tailor a cover letter or resume to a job.

Other tips when contacting the media for coverage:

  • When sending e-mail attachments, make sure the attachments are small so they do not unnecessarily clog-up a journalist’s inbox.
  • Know that most media operate on different platforms in addition to their traditional media outlet. News can appear in the paper or on TV, but also on a website, Facebook Page or Twitter feed. Those platforms also reach different audiences.