Earlier this week, we had the pleasure of speaking with Nicole Schuman, senior editor of PRNEWS, Mike Cronin, a journalist at the Austin Business Journal, and Lex Harvey, a journalist at the Toronto Star, for part 1 of our Best Practices for Communicator in 2021 series, What Journalists Want from PR Pros (In Their Own Words).
The topic of how to approach journalists and get your story covered has never gotten old. Although it seems the answers stay the same, the approach can always change depending on the journalist.
Here are four key takeaways – straight from the journalists’ mouths – to help you get your email answered and ultimately, your story covered.
Takeaway #1: Journalists Aren’t Just Journalists Anymore
According to The New York Times, last year roughly 37,000 workers at news companies in the U.S. were laid off, furloughed or had their pay reduced. Newsroom consolidation doesn’t just affect the journalists, it affects everyone.
“As a journalist you are now not only writing and editing, but acting as a talk show host, graphic designer and video editor. It’s a lot to put on our plate other than just getting the story out day to day,” says Nicole Schuman of PRNEWS.
Takeaway #2: Press Releases Are Still and Will Always Be Relevant
Journalists read them, want them and want you to attach or provide the link in your pitch. “The thing I utilize most from press releases are good quotes,” said Schuman. “I like a couple of sentences in the pitch about the press release. If, in those couple of sentences, you can give me a story idea or angle that is going to help me figure out how it applies to what I write about, that is best. As writers we want to develop our own narrative, but it’s super helpful and respectable when PR connect the dots.”
Takeaway #3: Pitch Something Newsworthy
One thing living through a pandemic has taught us is that we’re all human and need to be considerate of what others may be experiencing during this time. One thing to ask yourself before pitching a story to a journalist is, “Why people should care about what I’m pitching?”
Lex Harvey of the Toronto Star said, “The most useful thing – whether it’s an email or press release – is being able to pitch a story versus a product or event. Making it clear of why I should care, or why our readers should care, is important. Pitching it as a broader trend or connecting it to a piece of news will help me envision how it will be a part of a broader story.”
Takeaway #4: Be Considerate of COVID
Yes, that sounds strange, but the pandemic is still very much part of our everyday lives and will be for quite some time. “In normal times, I would go for a coffee just to meet people. If I know you in person, that’s always helpful,” said Mike Cronin of the Austin Business Journal. “Now, establishing a relationship is harder, obviously. I’m more time-crunched due to the pandemic, so I’m not open to a random conversation just to get to know someone. I need that conversation to become a story.”
As a final piece of advice, Schuman added, “Please don’t feel disappointed or like you failed if we don’t accept the pitch. A lot of what we are writing right now is about timing and what the audience needs, and I will always try to keep in contact with a good PR person.”