Welcome to the official kick-off of our guest blogging series! We’ll be featuring great content each Wednesday from smart influencers across the spectrum of digital marketing, content, social media and PR. Today’s post is from Matt Whittle – Matt is a former reporter and editor with some great insights to offer to PR pros from the perspective of someone working in the media. We met on Twitter (@mwwhittle) while discussing one of my MuckRack posts and I was impressed with Matt’s knowledge and candor.
We hope you gain valuable insights from the new, fresh voices you’ll be seeing here on our blog. Enjoy!
I have some surprising news for you. PR pros don’t always understand how best to work with reporters when pitching a story. But you know what? That’s not your fault. Newsrooms are tricky places and somewhere along the way reporters forgot they really should explain to people how they work and what they need. So, as a former reporter and editor, I’d like to offer some insight.
What Reporters Want PR Pros to Know About Pitching a Story … But Forget to Tell Them
- Your story is probably not as important as you and your client think it is. You have a great product. Your organization is wonderful. This story is crucial to your success. I understand and respect all that. Remember, though, yours is not the only story out there and it won’t be the only one I’m working on. It may be your sole focus, but unfortunately, it’s not mine.
- But if we’re talking, that means I want to tell this story and tell it well. My interest, though, is connected to how well you respond to my requests for information. Similarly, if you and your client aren’t genuinely excited, odds are I will lose interest, too.
- I don’t want to have to work to tell your story. This is not laziness. I will do whatever it takes to tell a complete story. Just give me a good news release and don’t bury the lede. If you don’t show me why my readers should care, then I don’t care.
- But I don’t want you to do my job for me. Don’t ask me to just print your news release. I got into journalism to tell stories. Give me enough information to start. Help me if I ask for it. Above all, save your best quotes for the interview.
- I want to talk to somebody my readers care about and maybe even know, especially if I’m with a local media outlet. Put me in touch with a local manager or employee.
- I need a photo. I would prefer my photographer shoot it, but if you have one, that’s OK. The better the photo, the better placement of your story.
- Some stories require extra effort – on both our parts. If after reading other reports and talking to other experts I have more questions for you, engage me. It will make my story stronger and unless you’re trying to hide something, it will enhance your and your client’s credibility.
- Despite all that, sometimes a news release is all I’m going to use. I know. It’s confusing. But if I run your release as a news brief, there’s a good reason for it.
- Never ask me to tell you when a story runs because you don’t subscribe to my media outlet. I shouldn’t even have to explain this one. All I ask is that you put a reasonable effort into paying attention to when we write about your client.
- I want to know if I made a mistake. Just don’t tell me publicly, accuse me of bias or berate me. I hate mistakes more than you. It’s my credibility on the line. I’ll run a correction. But if you’re rude to me, I’ll remember.
- The news is not for sale. No amount of advertising can buy you more than the same fair and balanced coverage anyone else would get. But when we need somebody to talk to, we know who does business with us. And, finally:
- As my PR contact, I see you as your story’s facilitator. You are important. You have the power to make it all possible – even to make it better – but you are not the story. If you remember that, we’ll get along better.
- Ultimately what I need most from you is trust. I know you want your client represented in the best light possible. I can’t take sides, but I understand and respect your point of view. What I need from you is that same understanding and respect that I will write the best, most fair story that I can, and that at the end of the day, that should be what we both want – a good story.
Matthew Whittle is a former reporter and editor with 10 years of newsroom experience for community newspapers in Virginia and North Carolina. Today he is a digital media communications specialist for the State Employees Association of North Carolina, the largest state employee advocacy organization in the South. In his spare time he seeks to help bridge the gap between public relations professionals and the media. You can talk to him on Twitter @mwwhittle.