7 Ways to Think Like a Reporter

October 7, 2014

PR and communications pros have a lot of complaints about reporters. Rest assured that reporters have just as many complaints about them, if not more.

How can PR pros and communicators bridge the gap and make the relationship more harmonious? Thinking like a reporter is a good start.

reporterHere are seven ways to do just that.

1. Make the news your first priority. When PR pros pitch reporters, are we thinking about the news value of our pitch? Or are we just focusing on our product, service or company? If you can tie your pitch into a trend or a bigger story that goes beyond the product, you’ll increase your chances of grabbing the reporter’s eye. Always ask yourself what makes your story newsworthy.

2. Consider their deadlines. Reporters have deadlines every day. So when a reporter calls, do you get right back in touch, or do you wait a couple of hours, or worse, a couple of days? Do you ask what the reporter’s deadline is? When a journalist requests something, you need to make that your highest priority. You also need to train clients to share that mentality.

3. Prepare to answer requests. Speaking of getting right back to reporters, try to have what they might need before you reach out. That would include customer references, images, logos, and answers to questions about finances. Whatever it might be, marshal your resources so you’re ready to go.

4. Paint the picture. It’s a good idea to offer a reporter resources right up front to make it easy for them to write a complete story. Connect the dots by supplying a customer, an image, or an infographic that will make it a no-brainer for them. They are strapped for time and resources more now than ever, so filling in the gaps for them right up front will be appreciated.

5. Bend over backward for them. Reporters sometimes receive hundreds of pitches in a given day. Occasionally, their decisions for whom to contact are fairly arbitrary. So why not go the extra mile to make sure your client is the one who gets the interview? Adopt a service-oriented approach, treating the reporter as you would a client. Do they need a particular piece of data? Track it down for them. If they request a high-resolution image? Have it ready to send.

6. Understand the business. Sometimes, stories get superseded by other, more pressing news. It just happens, even when you have a great rapport with a reporter. While this may be frustrating, especially to clients, it’s part of the biz. Be patient and understanding. There are times when this is beyond the reporter’s control, so you have to roll with it. Never complain or pester them if your story is pushed out. Patience always wins the day.

7. Remember that stuff happens. There are times when a reporter does an interview and expresses interest in a story, but then nothing happens. For whatever reason, the story just doesn’t run. These are the times when you have to remember that the job of PR is opening the door. Perhaps the reporter will revisit the story or contact you for a different story six months or even a year down the road. One of your priorities needs to be opening the door and establishing the relationship, whether or not the payoff is immediate.

(Originally published on Ragan’s PR Daily)

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