Think Like a Reporter to Get Media Coverage

Getting coverage for your business or organization isn’t always easy. But as a former reporter, I have some insight that can help you increase your chances of getting media coverage. Follow these tips to increase your success rate.

1. Cruise the news 

Read the news every day – especially news related to your industry. Knowing what is being written in your industry gives you a chance to identify information holes. What AREN’T they covering that they should? When you can fill this news hole, you become a valuable asset to reporters who cover your industry.Think like a reporter

Cruising the news daily also teaches you who covers your beat so you can pitch the right reporter the first time. Blanketing a newsroom email list with your press release doesn’t typically increase your chances of getting coverage. Reporters are busy. It’s easy for them to trash your email if they see that 11 other people in the newsroom received the same email, because they often feel safe in assuming someone else likely will cover it if it’s worth covering.

2. Be prepared to answer the “Who cares?” and “Why?” questions

Your precious daughter is cutting her long hair and donating it to charity and you think it’s a story. First, consider this: MILLIONS of other little girls before her have done the same thing. Who cares about your daughter doing it?

You have to dig deeper. You have to be prepared to answer “Why?” Just because millions before her have cut their hair doesn’t mean your daughter’s act doesn’t warrant a story. But you must be able to identify what is unique and special about this. That typically leads us to No. 3.

3. Provide a human touch to the story

Let’s say your daughter had leukemia as a child and lost all her hair. Now she’s cured and growing her hair as a means of paying it forward. That might make the run-of-the-mill hair donation story different enough to cover it.

Rather than think about the work you do in your business, consider how what you do impacts those around you. This typically is where a great story starts.

4. Know your media outlet

You must consider the type of outlet you’re pitching before you contact a reporter. That means don’t contact a TV reporter for a story if there is no visual element to it. Don’t email video footage to a radio station (unless they have a kick-ass website or social media channels where they post that type of footage).

5. Think new, different

Reporters have told me on numerous occasions they love trends, statistics and studies. These often can be found on a national level. You can help a reporter localize this information by providing the local angle. Be sure to cite your sources so the reporter can independently confirm the information you’ve provided. I recommend providing direct links to your sources.

6. Give ‘em the ax

Not literally, but you must give the reporter the right tool for the job. These days, you have to follow the words of Jerry Maguire more than ever: “Help me help you.” There are fewer reporters in many newsrooms, and there’s a bottomless well of news stories. Providing everything a reporter needs to produce a complete story makes their job easier, and increases your chances of getting coverage. This could mean providing the following:

  • B-roll footage a TV reporter can use along with any footage she gathers.
  • Names, numbers, available times of people who can be interviewed for the story.
  • Still photos. These often are good for print media, but they’re increasingly being used by TV outlets as a type of B-roll, as well as for their social media pages.

7. Write like a reporter

This dovetails with what I said in No. 6 about there being fewer reporters in many newsrooms. Sometimes, there’s just not enough manpower to get to every worthy story. When you’re following my advice in No. 1, take note of how the articles and briefs are written. Write your press releases like that. We live in a copy/paste era and if your release is well-written and it covers all the facts, there’s a good chance that release could make its way into your local paper. For TV news, couple that well-written release with some eye-catching B-roll, and it’s easy for a news anchor to produce a story about you.

Please sound off in the comments below when you try these tips and get some success. It will encourage others to give them a try!

Editor’s note: Thanks to my friend Lawanda Bailey for being the model for this post!