By Veronica Hunt
It’s not news that newsrooms across the country are increasingly challenged to bring the same level of quality reporting with reduced staff and lower budgets. After spending a few days with journalists from across the country at the Society of Professional Journalists’ Annual Conference and listening to their challenges, it’s apparent that this pressure will likely get worse. Reporters, editors and producers are forced to take on more roles and responsibilities as media outlets take drastic steps to stay solvent. Take the Times-Picayune, for example, which has cut its print publication days to three days a week down from seven.
As PR practitioners, we worry about juggling increasing client demands for traditional media coverage and shrinking media real estate. Fear not; here’s how PR can help fill the gaps, form stronger relationships with media and, potentially, capture more coverage for clients.
Make your story multi-platform
All too often our clients ask us to capture media coverage for a new or existing product or service, a new study, a cause, corporate initiative, new leadership, etc. While these stories sometimes have the legs to stand on their own and capture coverage, oftentimes they do not. With our PR hat on, we begin to think of newsworthy angles and trends. We can piggyback on to help capture media interest and subsequent coverage, which is where our PR needs intersect with current newsroom demands. In a land where newsrooms are increasingly challenged to generate print, broadcast and digital stories, PR can help by pitching multi-platform stories, making them translatable to print, TV, radio, and online, including social media and mobile.
- The pitch. Do your homework and identify journalists that are likely to cover the story. Write a specific pitch for each contact and include why this story is best told in the medium they represent. Note: many media are partnering to maximize their resources and improve their reporting, such as WLRN and the Miami Herald which are located in the same offices and actively creating fresh content. As a result, many reporters now wear multiple hats, writing stories for print and online, as well as broadcast reporting. Know which journalists wear multiple hats, and pitch detailed angles that they can take and run with.
- Evaluate the story. Step back and assess the different aspects of the story. Ask questions to identify layers of interest or angles. For example, if it’s a new product you’re pitching, ask how it makes life better, what need it meets, why it is important and how it came about. And, how can this information be conveyed with not just words, but sound-bytes, images and graphics.
- Carve it out. With these different angles identified, carve out the story. A news outlet will not cover the same story that other outlets have covered. Identify which facet of the story is best told in a certain medium and the assets available to help the story in that given outlet. For example, a story about a new art gallery exhibition makes for great visuals but interviewing the artists about their inspiration for the pieces makes for great radio and podcasting.
- Go the extra mile. Newsrooms are limited, staff have increasing deadlines and demands. PR can make the process easier by anticipating journalist’s needs and making it easier for them to share messages digitally. Offer to write canned tweets and Facebook posts.
As a PR practitioner we’re often charged with capturing coverage for our clients’ stories. Journalists are looking for great stories to tell. Pitching a story that can be told on multiple platforms is attractive, especially when it meets media needs. It’s a win-win for media and for our clients.
Image courtesy of Public Relations Blogger.