Think Like A Journalist

Last month on Journchat, Twitter’s hottest new sounding board for journalists, bloggers and PR folks, there was lots of talk about where PR falls into the shift in news coverage by journalists and who bears the most responsibility in deciding what news stories are most relevant.

Journalists have the utmost requirement to be objective in their approach to storytelling, leaving a reader to determine how they feel about a topic and to draw their own conclusion. And even though most people probably don’t know or could care less about the seven elements of a news story, everyone knows a topic must be worth talking about or else it’s not news. thinklike1

As more news goes online, PR folks have to gain a greater edge on how to get a story placed. Journalists have to take a stronger approach to how they tell a story. Ultimately, that means companies have to challenge themselves a bit if they want better news coverage.

Identify the niche of your brand. Figure out what makes it stand out. Without any assumptions or false hope, be honest about where you are and why a journalist might take interest in your company.

If you were a journalist, would you write about your company? As a reader, what is it about your organization that others would find interesting? What unique facts about your business could a PR person use to publicize your business?

Try this. Write your own story about your business. No fluff – just tell the facts about you and your company in a creative way. Spend some time with it and question its level of newsworthiness. This will help you develop better expectations for your PR strategy and strengthen your ability to gain news coverage.

*** Learn more about Journchat, Monday nights on Twitter, at http://journchat.info

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9 thoughts on “Think Like A Journalist

  1. Angela says:

    I’m a former journalist, but not reformed. To the chagrin of many in my organization, I challenge them to provide information that is ‘newsworthy.’ It isn’t easy sometimes and I still get a lot of ‘just do it’ press releases to write.

    I try to let them to know that we should be using to the web to tell all the stories, no matter how small. But many remain convinced that a press release is still required.

    And I picture one certain assignment editor, a former colleague, rolling his eyes whenever he sees an email from me …

  2. Aerial M. Ellis says:

    That’s interesting feedback Angela. It helps as a PR person to know how perspectives may vary among journalists especially in the realm of online news.

    I appreciate your input. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Thank you for this great post, Aerial. I’ve also been involved in Journchat and have found that it opens the doors to some really impressive discussion on the dynamic between public relations professionals and journalists.

    It is great to see that discussion continued by your post and comments by past journalists like Angela. Also, I appreciate your call for a honest evaluation of newsworthiness – something that can often be lost in the ‘fluff’. Thanks again!

    (I also wrote a post inspired by #journchat on building relationships between journalists and public relations professionals at pdotr.wordpress.com/2009/01/13/96/)

  4. vescalante says:

    Interesting read. I have been very successful over the years in getting coverage for events and companies because I know how to make a compelling news pitch.

  5. As a former journalist, PR professional and now a media trainer, I believe there is still a place for press releases — but PR folks need to write them in a way that they are web-friendly (short, snappy with plenty of SEO-relatable words.) This keeps the old-school SVPs happy internally. Second, the “just write it” approach isn’t going to work — we all know that. Or should know that. Any good PR pro watches, reads and listens to the news. Whenever possible, relate your story to current news. Find compelling human interest stories within your company story. Find unusual comparisons/contrasts between your product/service and what’s going on in the world. Journalists can sniff out a cookie-cutter PR pro a mile away.

  6. Karen Heenan-Davies says:

    Much of this is just basic best practice for any PR practioner that wants effective relationships with media representatives. It doesn’t matter whether we’re using email, phone, news release or social media channels to pitch an idea – it comes down to knowing what would appeal to journalist, making it interesting, factual and unique.

  7. Thanks Aerial. Interesting topic. I joined my first Journchat on Twitter this past Monday night…lots of interesting feedback. As a former TV producer, I follow one rule of thumb in PR: if I don’t find a pitch interesting or compelling enough to want to watch it or read about it myself, then I don’t pitch it. Thanks again for the great info…look forward to the next Journchat.
    Thanks!
    @kathyoreilly

  8. Cameron says:

    Think like a journalist – distort, twist, blow out of proportion – MAKE it newsworthy.

    Not all, but many do journalists do these things. I worked as a DJ and did a wedding for a client at an upmarket venue that went very well on the night. During the evening I was interviewed by the journalist about being a DJ and what functions and the industry were like from my point of view.

    Almost everything I said was taken out of context, twisted and distorted to make me look like scum who could not have cared less about my clients or their wishes.

    Suddenly it was all about the DJ and not the beautiful wedding reception they’d just had.

    This cost me the venue and a substantial amount of work for years, the client who had so much fun, and enjoyed the previous evenings’ wedding reception wouldn’t even take a call from me after the article was printed.

    Be very careful talking to any journalist, the commercial reality is that they must have something newsworthy to turn in on a regular basis to justify their existence and pay – don’t become their victim.

    Keep to the exact facts that can’t be re-interpreted.

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