By Justin Pugsley, Principal of marketing & copywriting agency, JJPAssociates
Finding it hard to place stories with the media? Then try this
Many PR professionals are complaining that it is getting harder to place stories with the media, journalists are either too busy or simply get too many pitches. But there is a way of turning that to your advantage, which I’ll address shortly.
But first let’s deal with some of the reasons for this less receptive environment. A commonly trotted out explanation for journalist apathy is that they receive too many PR pitches and way too many irrelevant ones. A case of yet “another PR idiot on the phone who knows nothing about my publication and even less about my beat. Christ stop wasting my time!”
There is a strong element of truth in that, but it is far from being the whole story. After all most media organisations would have very little to write about if it wasn’t for the work of PR professionals feeding them news stories and insights on the news.
But a bigger issue is that many publications, including some of the big media names, have been reducing head counts in their news rooms. They’re not as profitable as they used to be. The torrent of free content and alternatives to advertising in publications is chiseling away their revenues.
The remaining journalists are therefore expected to work a lot harder — long gone are the regular boozy lunches. Even jollies abroad involve quite a lot of work these days. And don’t forget that there is the online version of the publication to cater for as well. Publication websites are voracious monsters requiring constant feeding with up to date relevant content.
Give news editors a hand
But this also represents an opportunity for organisations wanting to give their story an airing. Under-staffed publications need content and are increasingly open to outside contributions, especially when they’re free.
Of course those articles do need to be well written requiring minimal editing. They must not be PR fluff or marketing hype. The article must have substance and be of interest to the readers. Imagine how you’d feel while browsing your favourite news website and finding it stuffed full of rubbish articles peddling products and services. You’d soon turn off and turn away and so would other readers.
With some of my clients I have found that offering to write an article or contribute a blog post has become a much more effective way of placing stories. If it is well written, well reasoned and interesting you are helping that publication. Hopefully it will chime well with its audience. If the publication’s editors have no familiarity with you, that may require you having to send it in on spec (ie they can reject it if it is not good enough). But in my experience if you’ve agreed it in advance, and written it properly, that rarely happens.
This does take more time than a phone or email pitch to land an interview for the client. But in many cases offering to provide content has proved much effective and is a great way to build a relationship with that publication’s editorial staff. Often this later leads to interview requests anyway.
And if you don’t have time to write articles, or don’t have the skills, then find someone who can, if your budget allows. It might go a long way towards keeping your clients happy, getting the exposure they want and building good working relationships with target publications.
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