How to write content which will get a reporter’s attention
I’ve been a reporter in the Australian market place for ten years including time as a news editor and presenter, in courts and briefly in politics reporting. There are dozens of ways my colleagues will review and search for possible stories, and time and time again there are clear paths to broadcast or print.
What makes a story?
Some argue there’s very no real science that helps decide what makes something news worthy– you can spot news or you can’t. I think there are rules; I’m not saying they don’t get broken, but there are rules. Journalists work with communication professionals and often the relationship between the organisation and the newsroom is crucial, so there is merit in all parties sharing accurate information when news breaks. So here are some tips.
1. Good journalism should always have some kind of benefit to an audience.
I see hundreds of media releases that spend vast paragraphs explaining products and services. There’s nothing wrong with the information but too often the ‘news release’ ignores the audience. Remember: a good journalist thinks about the how the reader or viewer is moved by the story. Your release should be about people too. If your release is about a new website– how will people use it? If your release is about a new factory– tell me more about the jobs that will come from it?
2. Know the channel, station or newspaper.
Be sure to know a little about the show, channel or newspaper you hope will focus on your content. If the TV station reports lots of politics, don’t be disappointed if it won’t cover a story on science for example. Be careful relying on an old news contact list because if you call to pitch a story to someone who left the organisation (most newsrooms have high turn-over) it could suggest you don’t watch or aren’t interested in the news service.
3. Be social.
More and more Australian journalists are on Twitter and Facebook. Spend time getting to know them and their rounds. If you have a particular message that might be of more interest to a police reporter than a medical reporter, track them down on social media. Follow them but don’t be too stressed if they don’t follow you back. Don’t waste your time if all they do is spam old news tweets.
Reply to the journalist with interesting contributions to conversations about current stories or reports they’ve filed. Add them to a list on Facebook or Twitter and consider making contact on LinkedIn. Mind you– good journalists should be doing this with you and your organisation too.
4. Ask the journalist why something has been considered news worth or why it won’t be?
A good journalist should give you an idea of why something isn’t deemed news worthy for their news service. It could be because of other breaking news, it might not have targeted the audience or it wasn’t news.
Don’t be disheartened; the content might very well have a target audience that can be found with another news service or via social platforms.
Lastly, digital and social media is dramatically changing how journos and other communication professionals work together. Good journalists are finding news from within communities using Facebook and Twitter. Good journalists are learning more about what the community wants because of feedback from social media platforms. Communicators for organisations are finding communities that want their news and information and, crucially, they now have a platform to relay the information when the newsroom says no. This is a truly exciting development for all communicators.
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