Find the right journalist and get press coverage

THE PIX-JOCKEY (self-portrait)

A journalist, by Roberto Rizzato

You’ve got a new product or some news you want to get out there. How do you find the right journalist?

Step 1: Read the papers

Read the papers. Every day for a week, go to your local coffee shop for one hour and read all the papers they have back-to-back. Note down the names of journalists who wrote something relevant. It doesn’t have to be about a product exactly the same, even if they just wrote about your industry or have a section that your product would fit into, that’s fine.

Step 2: Research the journalists

Write down their names and then research them online. Read through everything they’ve written and see whether they fit. Things to look out for are whether they write positively about things, or just slag everything off. Are they sarcastic and critical, or nice and optimistic? Try and find as many as possible that fit your match.

Step 3: Tailor your news to their publication

Now it’s time to get your news in shape. If you have the time, it pays to tailor your news to each individual publication. For example, The Sun uses massive words in bold and blasts the message out there (see an example I worked on). The Guardian, by contrast, tends to discuss things more tentatively with facts. Blogs and online news sites love to talk about rumours (as it means they get the story first) so perhaps you could offer them an exclusive into what’s coming up, or a behind the scenes video. Either way, always write the article in the body of an email, never in an attached word document.

Step 4: Call the journalists

For a major publication, magazine or online news outlet, you must call the journalist. If you send them an email without a telephone call, you can forget it. You must call them in the morning, before 9.45am. What’s going in the papers is decided at about 10.30am, so you have to get in before. If you can call them between 8.30 – 9.30 they are much more receptive.

To get through to them, call the publication’s News Desk. I wrote a blog post here which contains links to the contact information of every single major news desk in the UK. Make sure you call ALL the journalists on the same day. They will NOT publish your story if they’ve seen it somewhere else the day or week before.

Phone Script

Newsdesk: “Hello, Weekday Times newsdesk.”

You: “Hi, please can I speak to Joe Bloggs? I’m calling with some relevant news for them.”

Newsdesk: “Please hold…”

Joe Bloggs: “Hello, Joe Bloggs speaking”

You: “Hi Joe, I read your article yesterday about stereotypical names used in examples and how people with that name get really upset. I happen to be an author of a book about stereotypical names and I’ve got some news. Do you have a second?

Joe Bloggs: “Go on”

You: “Thank you. [Give a very brief 20 second summary of your news], can I send you a news release to look at?”

Joe Bloggs: “OK”

You: “Great. What’s your email address Joe?”

Step 5: Send them the email

Now you’ve got their email address, you can send them the pre-written story. Make sure you send the email within 5 minutes of talking to them on the phone. Any longer and they’ve already had a few other phone calls and forgotten about you.

Send them the email, and make sure it’s crystal clear, includes all the relevant information including where they can go to learn more, and how to contact you. Don’t ask them any questions, and don’t expect a reply.

Step 6: Follow them up with another call

At 3pm, give them another call. “Hey Joe, it’s You from this morning. I spoke to you about my book of stereotypical names? Yes. Just wondering if you got the release and had any questions? Great. Do you know whether it’s going to make it into the paper/magazine?”

This follow up call is almost as crucial as the first one. All experience PRs know that a follow up call increases the chances of getting published ten-fold. If you’re not doing it, someone else is. You may even have to do a few follow-ups. I remember that to get my first ever piece of coverage in a regional paper called the Stirling Observer based in Scotland, I chased them four times. In the end I got a full article on page three.

Step 7: Check to see if you got in

Journalists often don’t know whether or not your story will get published. Even if they write something, that doesn’t mean it will. The editor decides what goes in, and the only way for you to check is to buy the paper or magazine and go through it. Don’t rely on Google Alerts (it misses a lot) or any other kind of online tool for digital versions of printed press.

Once you’re published

If you get published, celebrate like crazy. It’s a wonderful achievement and I’m sure you’ll feel the buzz. Tell your friends and followers, link them to the article and if it’s from a credible source put it on your website, As featured on… Also, send the journalist another email thanking them. Within that email, say that you’ll be sure to get in contact with more news, and perhaps give them the inside scoop or exclusive next time. This is just a way to show your appreciation and keep the relationship open for next time.

More press relations advice

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