Making Headlines

Making headlines is not always easy.

I had the opportunity to attend a professional development event hosted by the Canadian Public Relations Society with Laurie Smith from CNW.

The Internet has changed everything. We can get news at anytime, anywhere about any topic we want. It is more important now than ever to deliver your news with impact.

Here are some tips to making headlines I got off Laurie.

Know your audience

This may seem like a no-brainer for communications specialist, but you would be surprised how many journalists receive bad pitches because the communications person has no idea who they are pitching to.

  1. Journalists

  2. Journalists are busier than ever nowadays:

    • They file their own stories
    • They need to learn to file their story in more than one format (print, web, Twitter, etc)
    • Less journalists are doing more work
    • And the news is now on a 24 hour news cycle

    With a 24 hour news cycle, Journalists no longer have deadlines, their deadlines are always NOW.

    You want to create a relationship with these hard working people. Don’t be afraid to be social with journalists. We are taught to use social media with our audience, but often forget journalists are part of our audience as well.

    To be social, you need to know who they are. Do research and find out what kinds of stories they write and what stories they have recently written. Over 25 per cent of pitches are not appropriate for the journalist’s beat.

    While browsing the internet, if you fall on an interesting article relevant to your organization, bookmark it. You can go back to the article and pitch to the journalist. Mention the old article in your pitch. The journalist will appreciate it and recognize you follow him/her.

    We all like to be recognized. Even though it is the journalist’s job to write a story, say thank you for covering your story or comment on their blogs/stories. Build a relationship with the journalist. They are working humans just like you and me.

  3. Bloggers

  4. Bloggers like to be talked to like a journalist.

    Bloggers want to be treated with respect. Some blogger have a higher readership then some community or daily newspapers. So it is important to treat bloggers like journalists. And in some cases the blogger is a journalist, or the journalist may be a blogger. They both deliver news to your principal audience so they should be treated the same.

Anytime is a good time

There are a thousand rumors of when is a good time to pitch your news release. But with a 24 hour news cycle, there is no “right” time to pitch a story. However, remember your readers are probably not awake reading the paper at 3 a.m. So pitch when your readers are awake.

And don’t be discouraged if your news release hasn’t been picked up on the first try. If you pitched the day the Twin Towers fell, no matter how amazing your story was, it wasn’t going to get covered. So wait a day and try again.

Decide what good looks like

So now that you have all the tricks up your sleeve you can pitch properly.

But what does success look like? Is it one story in the Globe and Mail? Or two stories in prospective blogs?

It is important to establish a benchmark to help track success. This way you can analyze what is working and what is not working. Media relations is not a science and even with the tips given in this review, today won’t guarantee a successful pitch tomorrow. It depends on the journalist, the time and the story.

And of course, MEASURE! Too often, people will set a benchmark and create objectives without measuring their success. What is the point of an objective if you don’t measure your success? It can be as simple as: did we land a story? Yes: we were successful. No: what can we change to be more successful next time.

Be resourceful

Depending on the type of organization you are and the budget constraints you may have, using tools to push out your news can save time. And of course, we all know time equals money.

Try a news wire, a distribution services that sends news releases and multimedia assets to news media and investors around the world. An example of a news wire is CNW.

Create an advantage with multimedia

Nowadays, journalists are pressured by their editors to give them more than just a story. Editors want added value to a story. You and the news outlet both have the same goal: to get as many people reading the story.

So, provide pictures, videos, audio recordings of interviews, charts, graphs, and anything that adds to your story.

The good thing about today’s society, videos and pictures do not need to be high resolution anymore. Even a simple video from your phone capturing a groundbreaking event is enough. In most cases, these videos will be uploaded on the online version of a news outlet and the journalist will require a small file anyway.

However, keep in mind, anything that goes to TV needs to be high resolution.

A great way of utilizing multimedia with your news release is to create a social media release.

A social media release includes links to relevant sites, videos from your YouTube account, pictures from your Flickr account, etc. A social media release is a great way of driving traffic to your social media outlets.

As I mentioned before, media relations is not a science. Each story, each brand, each organization is different.  Simply: RESEARCH, BE RESOURCEFUL, and use MULTIMEDIA and you are bound to be successful in making headlines.

Are you a communications professional who does media relations? What are your tips to making headlines? Are you a journalist? If so, what can you suggest to communications professionals to properly pitching?

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