Newsmakers Featured

9:53am EDT July 22, 2002

You pick up the newspaper and are thrilled to read an extensive profile on your company’s plans for a new product line that will change the face of your industry. Or you see a piece on the 11 o’clock news showing your employees rallying together to help a local nonprofit organization.

In both cases, your company is positioned well and set apart from the competition, either as an authority or leader in the field, or as a company that cares about the community. Both stories have in common the fact that they most likely appeared thanks to a well-planned pitch and presentation to the media.

This type of coverage appears every day for businesses across America — or at least the ones that make a concerted effort to achieve a mutually rewarding relationship with the media. Good relationships with the media are not formed without a good understanding of what reporters look for and what their responsibilities are.

Remember, the media isn’t the primary target for your messages ... it’s the readers and viewers of each outlet. The media should be viewed as a gatekeeper of information which can greatly affect a company’s image and reputation.

You want the media to publish or air the information you think is important for the public to learn about your company, but you must realize that the media is looking for specific kinds of information. To forge successful relationships, you face the challenge of crafting the messages you want people to get while providing news that reporters and editors desire.

It’s important to understand the media when you begin planning your pitches. Make sure what you’re pitching is newsworthy. To be considered news, your story must have at least one of the following:

  • Impact The topic must affect people’s lives in a significant way.

  • Numbers It must affect a large number of people.

  • Timeliness The event or news item is recent.

  • Prominence Your news involves well-known people.

  • Proximity It happened close to home.

  • Conflict or other bizarre or unusual elements.

Planning for each medium is critical. If you’re targeting the Butler Eagle, your story should affect readers in the Butler area. If you’re targeting Seventeen magazine, your pitch had better not be about how senior citizens can spend their weekend leisure time.

Once you have determined that your story qualifies as news, tailor your information to fit the needs of reporters and editors. Whether you are pitching a story to the television, radio or print media, reporters generally look for the same things:

  • Timely, cutting-edge trend stories.

  • New information, new opinions, examples of trends or of going against the trend.

  • Useful “how-to” information.

It’s critical to understand the specifics of each media outlet. Watch or listen to a few programs in the case of broadcast media, or read a number of issues of newspapers or magazines to get a better feel for content, style and reporter preferences and opinions.

Next, make the pitch. This can be done by picking up the phone and making your case to a reporter as to why your story is important to his or her audience. Have the details in writing to respond to requests for a fax or e-mail of the information. If the pitch is more complex, develop a news release with the details, or a simplified version known as a media advisory, which lists the who, what, when, where, why and how.

Regardless of your approach, make sure you are prepared. Editors, reporters and producers are busy people with strict deadlines. Don’t have a reporter on the phone and say, “I have some ideas to run by you that I know you’ll be interested in,” without having great ideas and being prepared to talk in detail.

Like any relationship, successful media relationships don’t just happen overnight. They are the result of hard work and a commitment to honesty and integrity and can be a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Jeff Krakoff is president of Krakoff Communications, a Pittsburgh-based marketing communications firm. Questions can be sent via e-mail to jkrakoff@krakoff.com. Reach him by phone at (412) 434-7718.