Top Six Tips for Talking to Journalists

As a business owner you may have a piece of news you want to share with the media – from an event to winning an award, to sponsoring a school trip. If you’re nervous about approaching the press, here are my top five tips to help you:

  1. Journalists are just real people

Never feel intimidated by talking to journalists. Despite what you may have heard, they’re just real people! Their job is to write stories, so they will be happy enough to talk to you. However, bear in mind:

  1. Journalists are busy, overworked people

So be respectful of their deadlines and pick a good time to call – unless you have a real scoop for them. If their newspaper comes out daily in the morning, then first thing in the morning is furthest away from their deadline. If their newspaper is published every Thursday, then steer clear of Tuesdays and Wednesday mornings.

Also have a clear idea of what you want to say before you call and make sure you have all the information you need to hand.

  1. Take their advice and guidance

Essentially if you’re trying to get coverage for your business through the editorial pages rather than paying for the advertising pages, you need to have a news angle. If the journalist is telling you that what you’re trying to push is an advert and not a story, but they’re kind enough to say that something else you mentioned would make a story – then go with it. They are the professionals, if they say there really is no story then it’s time to call in Datgan, not to get shirty. Which brings me to…

  1. Be polite

Newspapers are private businesses not public services and journalists are professionals, not public servants. Obvious, right? You’d think so, but you’d be surprised how many business owners phoned me up during my career as a reporter making rude demands for coverage. Treat the journalist like you’d treat any other business contact. Maybe even read a few of their pieces first and tell them which one you particularly enjoyed. A good relationship with a reporter can be invaluable to your business.

  1. Don’t be too relaxed

It’s fantastic if you develop a good relationship with the reporter, but remember some key principles. Use positive language, don’t be drawn into commenting on anything controversial, and if you don’t want something attributed to you, then you must state that it is off the record before you say it.

  1. Follow up

If you’ve had a successful interview with a journalist, or sent them a press release they expressed an interest in, keep an eye out for its publication. If it’s not in after a week, ring to politely ask why. It may be there has been a busy news period, staff illness, any number of reasons. Keep in touch politely until the piece is featured, and it doesn’t hurt to phone or email the reporter afterwards to say thanks for the piece.

There we have it, six top tips for talking to journalists. If you still don’t think pitching to the media is for you, Datgan can do it for you. Clients always say I am approachable and easy to talk to, so what are you waiting for?

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Sieges, Tsunamis and Boiler Suits

A hundred and twenty five years ago a fine publication called the North Wales Weekly News was established. Eleven years ago a green trainee reporter called Laura Hughes was lucky enough to start work on it.

Here is my contribution piece to the anniversary celebrations, looking back at my time on the paper and the wonderful people who made my first job as a journalist such a pleasure.

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Dos and Don’ts When Sending a Press Release

DO spend time before starting to decide what your angle is and which readers you want to target.

DON’T waste your time sending to titles whose readership does not fit with your target customers.

DO research titles’ readership demographics, style, reporter contact details and deadlines.

DON’T send a press release that isn’t relevant to a title.
A local newspaper in Bournemouth will not be interested in a fantastic new product by a designer from Blackpool. A design magazine will be interested in a fantastic new product by a designer from Blackpool if it is innovative enough. A local newspaper in Blackpool will also be interested.

DON’T send out a blanket press release to everyone.

DO write different versions for different titles.

DON’T just send your release out and hope for the best.
The contact you have picked could be on holiday or sick leave or your email could get stuck in the spam filter.

DO call to let the journalist know it’s on its way and phone again to check they’ve received it. However…

DON’T bother a journalist when he or she is near their deadline, unless you have a genuine scoop for them.

DO pick a good time and be polite.

DON’T think the job is done yet…

DO keep an eye out for your piece – if you’re happy with it a quick email to say thanks will never hurt. If it doesn’t go in, ring to politely ask why. It may be there has been a busy news period and it will soon be featured. If it doesn’t make the grade, ask why, listen to feedback, improve and learn for next time.

DO remember – these are the bare bones of placing and monitoring a press release. There are other factors such as timing and exclusivity. How to write a press release and thinking about accompanying images will be the subjects of future blogs, so please check back. If this all sounds too difficult or you need further advice:

DO please get in touch with me at laura@datgan.co.uk – I’m here to help.