It’s amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper.” – Jerry Seinfeld
In the PR business, one thing to always remember is that the task of executing good campaigns for our clients isn’t nearly as challenging as the task of a newspaper or magazine editor.While PR professionals follow the news trends, editors have the responsibility of setting them. They decide:
- the priority for each story,
- the amount of space to devote to it,
- how to illustrate it, and finally…
- how to ensure it reflects the truth!
And newspapers have to do that every day. No holidays. No breaks.
Magazines go more in-depth, and because most are monthly, their challenge is far greater. They begin work on the issue that hits the stands in May way back in February, and they have to predict which stories are going to be relevant two or three months from the time it is researched and written.The reason I point this out is because the number one pitfall of those seeking news coverage doesn’t concern the quality of the press release, the timing of the story or the skill of the spokesperson being interviewed.
It concerns recognizing the needs of the editors, who are the gatekeepers between you and your story and the millions of readers they reach.
From their standpoint, their newspaper or magazine does not exist to “give you coverage.” It does not exist so you can get your name in the paper and generate customers for your business. Their publication exists to inform and entertain their readership enough to keep them subscribing. In so doing, they provide enough readership to justify selling display advertisements that appear next to their articles. In other words, the newspaper cannot make money by serving you or your company in its editorial space. It can only survive by serving its readership.
So, the primary part of the equation is your approach to these editors. It’s not about bending them to your will, but rather tailoring a story and angle about your company, service or product that will appeal to their readership. Moreover, it can’t sound like an infomercial. Anything that is too commercial will earn the response, “buy an ad.”
Here are some tips on how to shape that angle:
If You Want to Get in the Paper, Then Read the Paper
If you want a newspaper or magazine to feature you, then first you’d better see what they are featuring in their pages. Once you understand what they write about in their pages, it will be easier for you to see how you could fit in.
Analyze if You are Actually Newsworthy
If your business is in an industry that is getting a lot of press lately, chances are you could piggyback on the headlines. Does your business offer solutions for people to help beat the recession? Right now, that’s a home-run story in most markets. Has your business beaten the odds or overcome adversity? Do you have an inspirational story to tell regarding how you prevailed over misfortune? Newspapers and magazines love to feature those kinds of angles, because they are universal and appeal to everyone.
Select the Right Tool to Get Coverage
When you have something to communicate to the press, use the right tool for the job. Most companies issue a press release whenever they move two inches to the left. Press releases should only be used when there is something “newsy” to communicate. Incidentally, reporters and editors don’t refer to them as press releases. According to the Associated Press Stylebook, they are called news releases. You should think of them as news releases, too.
Sometimes a simple email to an editor with three sentences describing the story angle is enough. Sometimes a pitch letter is what’s required. Remember, you don’t want to waste the time of the editors you are contacting. Give them as much information as they need to decide if you’re newsworthy, and that’s it. They won’t read a 4 page press release, so don’t feel compelled to write the company manifesto. They won’t read it, anyway.
Ask Yourself If You Would Read the Story You Want to Pitch
Be objective and ask yourself, if you were reading a magazine or newspaper and saw a story like the one you want the press to write on the page, would you take the time to read it? If you can imagine the headline in your head, and then hear yourself thinking “Who cares?” in response to it, chances are you need to come up with another idea.
If you want to get in the paper, then you need to think more like the editors who control that gate. The better you can help them serve their readers, the more they will want to write about you.