Newsradio 780 reporter Nancy Hardy interviews CEO Jim Keane of Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago. © Michelle Damico.
With all the stresses and deadlines that reporters face, it can be difficult to get their attention when you have a big story. But if you want to get positive placements for your clients, you have to make sure your name stands up when it shows up in their inboxes. Fortunately, there are a few proven ways to break through the newsroom noise and make stand-out pitches.
1. Print reporters and editors – Subscribe to the paper/magazine (truly a no-brainer) and send emails about their work. Often their print or subscription-only stories are different than what’s posted free. Email comments to the reporter about those pieces. Don’t be surprised to get a response thanking you for actually buying the online content/paper. It happened to me just last week and led to a conversation that resulted in a client interview for this Monday.
2. If a reporter/producer calls you seeking an expert – help him, even if you don’t have a client. He will never forget you, especially when you say “Hey, he’s not a client, but I always do my best to search my network to help you.” One producer calls me monthly and specifically says “I’m calling you first because I know you’ll help me out, no matter what.”
3. After securing a great news placement, follow up with a comment about the story, and suggest another angle worth pursuing in one month, two months, or even six months later. In the meantime, send links validating the angle.
4. Sympathize with their plight. I check in regularly with select reporters to see how they’re coping with their outlet’s downsizing. Make a point to call some at lunchtime and just listen as they describe the madness going on at their shops. I tell them how valuable their insights would be if they chose to work in the business world and offer my help if they are considering a transition.
5. Behold the lovely intern. Sadly, many unpaid interns are serving as general assignment reporters, photographers, or videographers for major newspapers in Chicago. When I work with young reporters I ask about their job status (full, part-time, non-paid). Upon learning they’re interns, I offer my job advice, based on my experience working with journalists. Most pepper me with questions, and more than a few have sent me thank you notes.
6. Broaden your horizons. Ask freelancers about the other outlets for which they write. Freelancers often work for several papers and magazines and more than a few of your clients may interest them. Share your resources, but do it at their convenience.
7. Cover for the reporter, even at your client’s expense. I had to notify a columnist that while my client was eager to talk to her for a story later this month, he’d be in a front page story next week, which would definitely affect her story plans a week or two later. I suggested she check with her editor first. She thanked me and canceled the interview.
8. When reporters cancel an interview, don’t begrudge – help them instead. That same reporter still needed a topic for her next column, and within hours I had a a new topic and source.
9. Leave comments on reporters’ online stories. They’ll appreciate the feedback and your willingness to start/contribute to a conversation over their work.
Are these tips helpful? Do you have others? Leave a comment!
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