Five things you should know before dealing with the media

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012 at 11:30 AM

Guest post by Nicky Rudd, MD, Padua Communications

Dealing with journalists can be tricky – especially if you’re not used to it. I asked Nicky Rudd, seasoned PR practitioner and managing director of Padua Communications, to share her experience. 

In my nearly 20 years of PR experience, the industry has massively changed. However, there are some key things to know when dealing with the media that have remained the same and will do so until the end of time. Here are my top 5 most important considerations when dealing with the media.

1.     Before you do any media outreach or start trying to contact journalists, do some research and find out the press day of each publication and what lead times they are working to. For instance, if you are dealing with a weekly publication, the news they cover will happen in that week. For regular features, you are looking at around six weeks before publication to get yourself included. Also, if you find out when press day is, you are more likely to be able to plan your story. Journalists never want to hear from PRs or companies on the day they go to press and they can be fierce. Beware, you will get short shrift and you will deserve it! You are more likely to be successful if you pitch your story after the trauma of a press deadline.

2.     Check the details of a publication and make sure you don’t assume. A journalist friend of mine who worked on a weekly couldn’t believe his ears when a PR person kept referring to his title as a monthly publication, especially when it had ‘week’ in its title. No friends made there and so not a good pick up for the client!

3.     Who you should be contacting? Are you hoping your story will make it to the news pages or are you looking to get into a regular feature? Depending on which, you will be talking to different people with different roles, timings and needs. Once you know these details, you should have a better understanding of when to contact them. And when not to!

4.     Have you checked your press release? How easy is it to find out the information and have you proofread it for typos? We have a policy of never sending a release out unless a second pair of eyes has looked at it. Mistakes in releases are one of the fastest guarantees to get your release binned. Make sure your release is formatted correctly. Does it include contact details? Don’t send the release as a PDF. Journalists want to be able to get the information, easily edit it, and use it in its simplest form so Word wins all the way. Read through the content and ensure it’s easy for the journalist to get the details they will need quickly. Also ensure you have a decent 300 dpi image to go with your story. Don’t underestimate the use of a good image!

5.     Don’t do everything by email. Use the medium used by the journalist to contact them. This might mean you are emailing, tweeting, phoning and emailing again. Journalists are swamped with information (some get about 400+ releases a day!) so don’t expect to get coverage automatically. Definitely don’t ring and ask the journalists if they are using your release. Think about what else you can offer them that would be an extra bonus to the story. A briefing with a senior researcher or a chief product developer? Are you giving them an exclusive?

Think carefully about the relationship you forge with journalists. A client of mine was always quite tetchy when a junior journalist was sent along to cover an International press briefing. Within five years, this junior journalist had become editor. If you can think in a wider sense of what the reader of the publication will get out of the story, a journalist will give you some credit for understanding their area of interest and what makes a decent story for them.

Just a couple of other quick pointers, you won’t get to see the copy or editorial before it goes to print, so make sure, if you’re speaking to a journalist, you have thought about your messages and wherever possible, make sure you have had some media training. Forearmed is forewarned. The best pieces of coverage have been strategically thought about, planned and the client is prepared.

Padua Communications runs regular workshops on dealing with the media and copywriting for press releases. Check for further info or give us a ring on 01932 213140.



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Hello. I'm Elaine, I'm a copywriter and this is my blog.

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