What do journalists want?

Journalists: as different as chalk and cheese

I was scrolling through a blog the other day (for the life of me I cannot remember whose it was otherwise I would provide a link) and a journalist was bemoaning one of his pet hates which went something like this:

“I hate it when a PR sends me the whole story; the angle, the research, the interviewees – everything.”

The assumption being that the journalist himself is paid to put the whole package together – not the PR person.

This view contrasts with something another seasoned hack come PR trainer once told me: “Give journalists the angle,” she said. “They cannot see why they want to write about you if they have no angle. And make sure you give them more than one interviewee if you can. They can then start to see a whole story developing.”

So who is right?

The answer is both of them.

Unless you are offering Elvis as an interviewee you need to give an angle, ie why should a journalist write about THIS and why should they write about it NOW.

And two interviewees with different angles on the same issue are generally better than one. However, what these opinions highlight most of all is the fact that journalists are individuals. Their requirements are as different as yours and mine.

I recently sat in a panel session with 11 journalists and a bunch of PRs like me firing questions at them. “Is lunching journalists dead?” asked a hopeful PR officer (whose expense budget was probably suffering in the wake of the economic downturn). “Yes, we are so short staffed, we never have the time,” came the first response. “I am working on online news and posting all day so can never get out,” came the second. The expectation was that it would carry on like this but the next journalist explained that he really enjoyed lunches as it allowed him to ‘get to know the stories behind the stories’. The following explained he felt the same too. The split was about 50/50 in favour of lunches in the end.

This served as a reminder to all the PRs there that the journalists and bloggers you target are individuals and the only way you know what they want is by getting to know them.

Find out what they write about, what their deadlines are, what sort of interviewees they like and ensure your stories are targeted to their needs. This takes more time but means you get the results you want in the end.

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  • About the Author

    It’s my job to look strategically at our clients’ goals for their brand and then apply my knowledge of PR, the media and online communities to make sure that we deliver. The part of my job that I enjoy most is being able to provide a fresh perspective for our clients – and uncovering the best way to raise the profile of their brand. I also love keeping up to date with the ever changing nature of PR.

    Before setting up the business, I worked both in-house and agency-side doing PR in the education and telecoms sectors. I split my time between France and the UK and so I can often be found at airports smuggling cheddar cheese into the land of camembert.

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