How To Get A Reporter’s Attention

How To Get A Reporter’s Attention

You run a wonderful company. Your product or service is top notch. But alas, you toil in obscurity.

You’re not alone. Business writers are inundated with pleas from people clamoring for coverage for their business. Only a tiny fraction of press releases become news.

Unfortunately, the story you want told (“look how great we are”) is rarely the same story the media wants to tell. Why not?

You want publicity. The reporter wants news. Public relations guru Joan Stewart of Publicity Hound warns that “publicity” itself is a “dirty word” you should never use with a reporter. Reporters’ loyalty is to the public, not your company.

If you send a news release, it should connect to what the reporters’ audience cares about. Does the media care about your reorganization?  Sure, if you’re AT&T. That you’re sponsoring the latest industry convention? Yawn. Certainly your new product or service is important? Only if you can show how it’s directly relevant to their audience. Even then, it may not merit its own coverage unless you can make something about your story seem fresh.

News is something unique, different, rare, intriguing, even bizarre. Something that will make the recipient think “Wow!” or “I didn’t know that,” or “Finally, something to help me with my thinning hair/weight/athlete’s foot/financial problems.”

Don’t despair if what you do is common. If you know your industry, which I hope you do, you can position yourself as an industry expert. If you sell real estate, you can be quoted in stories about the housing market. If you’re a personal trainer, you can be interviewed about fitness trends. If you can alert a reporter to a trend (more people are drinking smoothies this summer!), it’s likely you’ll be quoted in the article, with your company name and location. Just be able to back it up. No bluffing — reporters hate that.

Although reporters love novelty, familiar tropes are recycled endlessly in the media: stories about overcoming adversity, improving your finances or your love life or going from rags to riches.

These Are A Few Of Reporters’ (And Readers’) Favorite Things (With Apologies To Julie Andrews)

  • Stories about how businesses beat obstacles and succeeded against the odds. How you went from homelessness to a second home in the Hamptons.
  • Human interest stories. How you met your future husband while saving his life.
  • Startling statistics, lists and fun facts. How reading too many blogs can ruin your marriage.
  • Humorous quips, forceful statements and colorful (not blue, though) language. Highly quotable people often become reporters’ favorite sources.
  • People who return phone calls and emails promptly. They have deadlines.

Basic Tips For News Releases

  • Answer all the “Five W”s: Who, what, where, when, why.
  • Include contact information: name, phone and email address.
  • Keep it to one page or screen.
  • Don’t email your release as an attachment.
  • Target the right publication and editor. Don’t send a release about family planning to the AARP magazine.
  • If you’re in the tech industry, the vague word “solution” to describe a product will cause them to immediately reach for the aspirin.

In short, to get media attention, you must understand the media’s needs and what makes reporters tick.

Linda Rastelli

Linda Rastelli

Linda Rastelli is an award-winning journalist, scriptwriter, publicist and co-author of "Marketing: Essential techniques and strategies geared toward results" (John Wiley & Sons, 2007). She enjoys helping businesses sharpen and communicate their marketing messages and the challenge of making complex or technical ideas accessible. Journalism taught her to ask the right questions and to get to the point, scriptwriting taught her to think visually, and writing books taught her patience (but not quickly enough).
Linda Rastelli