Don’t ever call a journalist to chase up a story. They hate it!
It’s one of the rules so fundamental, it’s not really unwritten!
But you might have to, and if the relationship’s strong and the story newsworthy and relevant, you might get away with it.
There are some simple steps to take if you want a news story to appear in specific publication.
- Do your research. Make sure you know the publication and its readers, listeners or viewers.
- Adapt your story specifically to the outlet. Understand how they approach stories like yours. Make sure you know the angle most likely to appeal. Then structure it accordingly.
- Get together everything they’ll need. If it’s a head and shoulders shot, get one done. If it’s a news release, draft the copy. If they’re online, line up content to add value, like videos.
- Sort your sales pitch, the 10-15 second blurb that sums up your story and tells them why they should care. Make sure it’s really why they should care and not just why you think they should care!
- Finally, pick your moment and give them a call. Avoid when they go to press or when you know they haven’t got time to listen. If all’s gone well they’ll ask for the information, you’ll pop it on the email and you can sit back and wait for the coverage to appear.
But after all that, no coverage.
If you’re a trainee PR, before you know it your account director is asking for the results and you’ve nothing to show.
Under pressure you pick up the phone again and ask them if they’re going to run the piece. Their irritated response: “If I was interested in the story I would have used it ; but I haven’t, so I’m not!!”. Now they definitely won’t run the piece and they don’t much like you either. Most of us have done it. But, unless we’re really slow learners, only once!
The trouble is you still need the result.
And the truth is you can chase a story but only if a relationship already exists. I did exactly that this week with two different journalists and both responded positively.
So what’s the lesson? Relationships count. Put time and effort in getting to know the journalist and what they need. Build your reputation by consistently delivering good quality material.
Then when you need to bend the ‘rules ‘ a little, they’ll flex with you.