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What’s the State of the Media? A Q&A With Gini Dietrich

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Photographers were laid off. Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post. Online and print outlets folded. The media had a crazy 2013, and all the changes have changed PR.

State of the Media

Journalism doesn’t look like this anymore.

Communications expert Gini Dietrich went through Vocus’ State of the Media Report 2014 and presented the latest best practices at her webinar. Vocus Managing Editor of Newspaper Content David Coates and Managing Editor of TV Content Julie Holley joined Gini during the Q&A portion of the webinar, but the trio couldn’t get to all the questions.

Missed the webinar? Register for the free on-demand version now!

Here are answers to some of the questions they missed last week:


Q: How common is it for reporters to read comments on their stories?

Gini Dietrich: We have really good luck with this tactic on behalf of our clients. We call it the response campaign internally. (Not very creative, but what can you do?) Not all journalists will do this, so you’ll have to do a little trial and error, but many do read the comments readers leave on their content. If you have a differing opinion or a smart comment that adds value to the story, it’s highly likely they’ll use you as a source in their next story.

That said, when I wrote about this on Spin Sucks, I was notified there was a conversation in a journalist’s LinkedIn group about it. Many old school journalist’s were saying that tactic would never work.

So I recommend you test it out. Choose five of your top priority publications and build relationships through the comments on their content. I’m willing to bet you’ll have at least an 80 percent response rate.

Q: Should outlets like The New York Times and USA Today be pitched the same way as other outlets?

State of Newspapers - 2014David Coates: No, they should not. Major nationally daily newspapers want exclusives. In other words, don’t pitch The New York Times and The Washington Post the same story. Figure out which one you have the best chance with and target that one. The last thing these big newspapers want is to write a story every other newspaper has.

Keep in mind, when reporters have an assigned story they are committed to writing what the editor asks for. However, editors will often ask their reporters, “What do you have today?” This means “Tell me what the story is today.” If you pitch a story to a reporter and she is excited about it, then it won’t take much for the reporter to sell her editor.

Q: How do you pitch obviously liberal or conservative news media? How does bias affect pitching?

David Coates: You need to know your audience. Certain newspapers will jump all over hot button conservative or liberal issues. So to answer that question, yes certain biases do affect pitching certain story ideas.

However, just because a newspaper leans to the right (i.e. Washington Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Post) doesn’t mean it is not interested in writing about what some might consider liberal issues. And just because a newspaper leans to the left (New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times) doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in a conservative story.

These newspapers cover the same news, they just don’t approach the story from the same angle. That’s key. If you pitch a liberal issue to the New York Post, give the editor or reporter an option to contact a “conservative” expert. And if you pitch a conservative issue to the Washington Post, provide them with an opportunity to contact a “liberal” expert.

We can give the New York Post and the Washington Post the exact same facts for a story and, depending on whom they interview and quote for that story, you can have two completely different conclusions about that issue after reading each of their stories. So does bias matter? Absolutely. Once again, know your audience.


Q: How can you combat negativity on social media?

Gini Dietrich: Unfortunately, there isn’t a thing you can do about people saying negative – or critical – things about you online. You can’t make everyone happy and people will post things you’d rather they didn’t.

My best advice is to let your communications training take over. If someone is unhappy, the very best thing you can do is apologize (and mean it) and take the conversation offline. In many cases, that person will go back online and talk about how helpful you were.

Where you see the social media crises develop is when organizations post the same response over and over again and coming across as the big, corporate giant or when the comment goes completely unanswered.

Q: How do you recommend agency PR pros connect with journalists?

Gini Dietrich: I was going to answer this one during the webinar because I think agency professionals are a different beast. It would be impossible to try to connect with journalists on behalf of your clients (even if you only work on one account) as someone other than your personal self. I suppose you could do it under the agency brand, but you don’t email or call under an agency name. You do so under your name.


Q: What are “Futures Editors” and how can you connect with them?

Julie Holley: Planning Editors are great to pitch. They are usually away from the chaos that sometimes surrounds a busy TV newsroom assignment desk, giving them a little more time to read your news release or story pitch. Not all stations have a futures/planning editor, however, most major market stations have someone in this position.

The Vocus Media Database includes planning editors at TV stations and networks across the country. The title of a planning editor varies a bit from station to station, so when searching the database, be sure to try various combinations of the titles.

Even though the planning editor might have more time to review your story idea compared to their colleagues, they are still very busy. So,  treat your pitches the same way you would for other TV journalists.

Q: How do pitches to national outlets differ from local outlet pitches for television?

Television StudioJulie Holley: Many of the best practices for pitching major, national TV news outlets is the same for smaller outlets. Stories on the national news, like at the local level, must engage viewers or be helpful in some way.

Pay close attention to the type of stories that air during a particular broadcast. For example, a national morning news program tends to have a strong blend of topics including: hard news, guest segments, lighter stories, new products and health and lifestyle stories.

The later in the morning, the more feature segments appear. In the evening, the news is much more serious and there are far fewer light-hearted pieces. Be sure to pitch the right program based on the type of story you have.

One of the best ways to get a story picked up by a national morning news program is to identify a segment producer who covers stories most closely related to your topic. If a news release is about a product for the home, for example, look for a producer who is interested in that subject.

The best way to send a story idea for an evening, national news broadcast is to contact the show‘s main producer. If the story relates to breaking news or the day’s news coverage, be sure to call or email the show’s producer no later than about 9 a.m. ET. This is typically when story coverage for the evening broadcast is planned.

Want to read the report for yourself? Get Vocus’ free State of the Media 2014 report now!

Image: Montana State University Library, Kat Northern Lights Man, realjv (Creative Commons)

About Brian Conlin

Brian Conlin is a content marketing manager for Cision. A former journalist, he enjoys researching and developing accessible content. When not writing, you will find him watching baseball and college basketball, sampling craft beer and enjoying Baltimore. Find him on Twitter @BrianConlin13.

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