Continuing on from the last two posts, this final one looks at understanding how journalists find stories and decide to write about them. The 2010 PRWeek/PRNewswire survey of both traditional and non traditional journalists found that PR pitches through social media resulted in coverage more than 70% of the time. Wow! In contrast, the usual way PR executives pitch journalists via email resulted in less than 20% coverage success. Are you doing your best to identify and relationship build with journalists and bloggers through social media channels like Twitter and Linkedin? You should be doing this first, before you need to pitch them on stories.

Journalists are now being asked to write for their publications’ online editions and blogs and to maintain a personal Twitter account. That’s a lot of need for informative and entertaining stories! It is also putting more demands on their time. Pitch a story where you have already gathered together information links, have talent or interview subjects on notice and their contact details easily at hand, have your photos placed online where they can be easily used for a story, basically do everything you can to make it an easy story to write. Your chances of coverage are exponentially increased if you do this.

91% of bloggers and 68% online journalists say they use blogs for research, but only 35%-38% of traditional journalists (newspaper/magazine) do. Since you will want stories from both, you should be maintaining some sort of blog presence and looking for coverage on blogs that reach your target audience. Twitter is used as a source for stories mainly by bloggers and online publications and not as often by traditional journalists. I expect its use will only increase as time goes on.

I have long held the suspicion that coverage is easier to get if you are willing to buy advertising on the media platform. While journalists deny this is the case, the study cites that PR practitioners see the correlation between coverage and advertising. 40% say they have received coverage as a result of “pay-for-play” (you buy advertising, they write editorial pieces).  Take from this what you will. I can say that I receive coverage when my story is closely aligned with the goals of the journalist and I haven’t bought advertising to get that, but I when I have been in advertising negotiations, blog owners have told me that they will give me editorial as well.

A few ways journalists find stories or decide on what to write

-Assigned by an editor. They are given names of sources to interview which may have been pulled from an in-house database of trusted and reliable sources. These sources are often long term relationships with experts and PR professionals. Sometimes the journalist does comb the internet looking for new sources. This is how I was approached by USA Today to give a quote on a story the journalist was writing. He used Google. Will your name be found on Google as an expert or a good source of information on a topic?

-Write stories based around recent news events. If you can be a credible source for a journalist or if your film’s subject matter speaks in some way to that event, there’s a good opportunity to pitch an idea. If you can somehow put a fresh or unique spin on that event, you are likely to get coverage.

-They look for original story ideas to develop. This is where knowing about the style of writing or the type of audience the writer attracts is beneficial. If you can help them with valuable research links or help them uncover stories that haven’t been told, you are providing a much needed service to the journalist. You’ll be rewarded with either coverage this time, or remembered for coverage at a later date. Or maybe both!

-They expand on stories written by others. If a well read story by another publication can be localized or serve as a counterpoint, this provides a great story angle. Again, be of service and pitch an angle with supporting documents where your story can tie in to a widely read story or news event.

-They talk to people. Obviously journalists always are looking for good stories. In addition to coming up with their own ideas, they call contacts to chat and get a feel for the vibes in the area they report on.  They also go to live events, conferences, film festivals to meet people and talk; sometimes to people they already know and sometimes to people they meet on site. They don’t go so you can run up to them with your press kit and pressure them to write about it. At film festivals, I make note of press badges and either strike up a conversation by asking what they are experiencing, what they are there to cover or what they normally write about (note, this conversation is all about THEM). If my story is relevant to their needs (not just my own), I will work it in. If it isn’t, I never push it. Being face to face is a very intimate experience and it is easy to tune someone out who is being pushy or simply excuse yourself and leave. You don’t want either of those things to happen.  Be respectful and always think about how you can be of service to the journalist, not how they can be of service to you.

Hopefully this series of posts is helpful to you in figuring out the most effective ways to approach journalists and bloggers. Put yourself in their place and look at your pitch from the perspective of how your story will be informative or entertaining for their readers. If it isn’t apparent in your pitch, the likelihood of successful coverage is low.

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