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How to engage with journalists to get the best coverage

The media is constantly changing as a result of digitalisation. The internet has become the go-to news platform, meaning getting news is quicker and easier than ever. As a result, journalists are now busier than before, so as a PR professional it’s even harder to get a response. The relationship between journalists and PR professionals is key to being successful in PR, our job is to get results and the only way this works is if journalists cooperate with us.

So, how can you engage with journalists to ensure that you get the best coverage? Here are my top 5 tips:

1. Grab their attention

Journalists get a million emails a day from PR, you need to make yourself stand out amongst them, so you need to be able to catch their eye. Journalists don’t want to write about topics that have been spoken about time and time again, they want something that is going to surprise their audience, something that hasn’t been written about before.

For example, I recently worked on some research about diversity in the workplace. Now this is a topic that has been discussed in great detail in the media – how there should be more diversity in the workplace and how diversity benefits these workplaces – so they are probably not going to want to write about that again. This piece of research, however, spoke about how diversity does not always benefit the workplace and this is the kind of content journalists want, as it’s something most people would be interested in reading about because it’s controversial.

2. Research the journalist

When I say research the journalist, I mean their professional history, not their life story. You should research what they write about, who they work for, their writing style, knowing all of this allows you to decide if the journalist is the right person to pitch this research to, would they be interested in writing about it? Have they written about a similar topic before? It also allows you to tailor your pitch to them, you can show that you know they would be interested in your client’s research. The journalist will appreciate that you’ve taken the time to tailor a pitch to them, this personal touch makes it more likely to be a successful pitch.

3. Be accurate

Being accurate is something that those who work in communications don’t really think about, but for journalists, accuracy is the most important thing when they are writing a story. Public trust in journalists can be low as a result of recent journalism scandals, so it is very important that journalists are truthful in their reporting.

Taking the time to check that what you’re pitching has all the right facts and isn’t misleading, saves the journalist time at the other end. In this case being right is more important than being fast, as long as you give them all the information before the deadline, they will appreciate that you took the time to check the facts.

If you constantly provide accurate content it demonstrates that you are a competent PR professional, and the journalist will remember and keep coming back to you. Remember it’s your reputation at stake.

4. Follow up with journalists

If you send an email to a journalist but haven’t heard back then definitely follow up with them. Most of the time they are just busy and haven’t had the opportunity to get back to you, either that or where they’ve had so many emails it’s just slipped through the cracks. Either way, if you haven’t heard from them about a week later, just send another email to check they received the first one. You never know, they may have just filed it away for a later date and hadn’t told you. If you don’t get a response to the follow-up that’s when you leave it, you don’t want to be one of those PR people who bombard journalists with loads of emails. The last thing you want is to be blacklisted.

5. Use social media

The use of social media for news has drastically increased over the last few years, for most young people it is how they get news. For journalists, it is now used to not only find, but also to distribute news. Rather than contacting a journalist through email, try using social media, it is a great way to engage with journalists without all of the formalities, you can comment on their articles, tag them in posts and just have general conversation with them. By doing this, you’re building a rapport with the journalist, therefore making it more likely for them to contact you or respond to you about research because they know you.

So make sure you pitch interesting and relevant content, do your research so you find the right journalist, always be accurate, and use social media. If you follow these top tips, you’re bound to secure top coverage for your client.

If you would like to find out more on how you can engage effectively with  journalists and the media, please get in touch.


Author: Katie Hurley

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