How to think like a reporter

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If you want some media coverage for your company or an event you’re organizing, read this quick primer on how to think like a reporter…

Are you trying to get media coverage? The best piece of advice I can give you is to think like a reporter.

From my own time as a senior editor at a metropolitan daily newspaper, I can remember the dozens of people who used to call me with their media problems. “We need a story,” they said. “We’ll go broke if you don’t write about us.”

If only they’d recognized that I had problems, too.

People who succeed at media relations are experts at the Venn Diagram. Remember that image from your grade 4 math class? There is always an A circle (let’s say that represents the problems of people in media outlets) and, similarly, there’s always a B circle (let’s call that the problems of people who want media coverage). But there is also, inevitably, an AB circle where those two interests intersect.

If you can come up with a media pitch that solves your own problem AND the media outlet’s problem (the AB area), then you’ll likely have a winner. So stop telling the media outlets about how badly you need coverage. And, instead, arrange your pitch so that it meets their specific needs.

Start by studying the media outlet to figure out any special “sections” or “segments” they might need to fill. Perhaps they have a medical/health segment that you can fit into. Maybe they have a food section that would be perfect for you. Possibly your story could fit in the business section? If you can find a niche or a special area in which your story will work, you’ll have a better chance of getting coverage.

The second thing you need to do is to determine what problems you can solve for the media outlet. Do they need photos (or photo ideas)? Do they need local angles? Perhaps you can tie into a national holiday or regular event — here I’m talking about anything from Valentine’s day to Canada Day.

Next, you should make yourself very familiar with previous stories that have run in this section or segment. It’s really important to be knowledgeable about what the media outlet has done in the past. (Never suggest a story when they did a similar one just last week!)

Finally, get the name of the editor/producer of that section or segment and send him or her a perfectly tailored story idea. Don’t think you can just send out the same press release to dozens of outlets. Well, you can. Just don’t expect any results if you do that.

Is this sounding like a lot of work? That’s why most companies have PR departments or hire outside consultants to do these types of jobs. If you’ve done it before it’s not nearly as hard as it sounds.

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