HOW TO CRACK THE HACKS: TIPS FROM AN EX JOURNO
Shifting from journalism to PR is a huge jump. I’ve spent more than a decade answering annoying calls with “Can you stick that in an email please? Oh, you have already… yeah, I’ll get back to you.” But after 13 years with nationals at the BBC, I can give you a few tips for getting your story past lazy/grumpy/overworked journos, and on to the air waves.
Story is king
You might have a load of well researched stats, some great B-Roll and a top-notch interviewee lined up to sell your client, but unless you can say what your story is about in one sentence, I wouldn’t have cared. Content is great, but without the story to back it up, it’s not getting on air. Simplest way to find the story? If you were telling your mates about it in the pub, how would you explain it to them in one sentence.
Do their job for them
Clichéd it may be, but journalists are overworked (or lazy). If you write a great release, they’ll probably incorporate phrases or entire chunks of your copy into their copy. Cut and paste is bad journalism, but it happens. Take advantage, and watch your key messages appear on air.
Email a national news desk with a story about children’s play parks when the Prime Minister is quitting, and you’re not really going to get their attention, are you? And send too many emails every day to the wrong person, and you’re straight on a mental list marked “Delete without reading”.
I don’t do numbers
Most journalists HAVE NO IDEA about stats. They like words and pictures. So present your stats clearly, simply and sparingly. Otherwise they get scared and confused – and on a busy day, your press release gets ignored. Unless you’re speaking to the business and economics desk. In that case, a load of numbers is like Christmas. Really.
One last thought – schmooze. Another cliché, another truth. Journalists are suckers for a free drink or two. We really are.
Phil Westerman, Senior Consultant @ ON
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