Helping Reporters Do Their Job

Fewer reporters in newsrooms creates an opportunity to shop more complete story pitches. That requires creativity and integrity from PR professionals.Shrinking newsrooms make it tougher to pitch story ideas, but it also puts a premium on PR enterprise to outline a great story idea that is easy to follow by a stretched-thin reporter.

"If you can sketch a story and help a reporter fill in the blanks, you are well on your way to a successful pitch in today's evolving media environment," says CFM Account Executive Hannah Smith.

At a minimum, most newsrooms are looking for more than just words on a page.

"They want images, video, contacts and any relevant context," Smith says. "In short, they want help with their homework." This includes finding credible people who use products or are affected by policy decisions for reporters to interview.

This kind of scripted journalism requires PR professionals and anyone else pitching stories to keep their integrity front and foremost. "If you steer a reporter into a ditch or blindside them," Smith says, "don't be surprised if you find them unwilling to work with you on your next pitch."

Changing media platforms, such as the rise of longer-form journalism on iPads, creates new opportunities for PR professionals. "You have more options for structuring a story pitch," Smith explains, "just like you have more media channels to reach."

One thing about media pitching that hasn't changed is the human touch. Reporters and editors don't respond all that well to pitches conveyed via social media. "They want to talk to a real human," Smith says. "Getting to know a reporter on social media is a good strategy that works. Pitching a story, on the other hand, is a personal contact sport."

Because reporters are busy, you need to know when and how to contact them. Data suggests the best time to pitch a story is early in the morning before editorial teams meet to decide on the news of the day. And it always is a good idea to respond promptly to reporter calls and ask about their deadlines.

Helping reporters write solid stories is a great step toward building rapport and trust that can lead to subsequent successful pitches. Better yet, you will get calls from reporters about stories of interest that involve your company or client.

Coverage won't always be glowing or one-sided. But earning coverage that tells your story is what counts. If you do that well, you are doing your job as a PR professional.