There really isn’t anything that can be done when it comes to getting your client mentioned in a story.
Journalists have their own agenda: get people to read their story. They want it to be original, informative, funny, emotional, heartfelt-anything that will make readers continue to the jump page. If your client isn’t the most important part of that story or they don’t play in to where they’ll fit, they might just get left behind and that could mean your job.
But here are a few things you can do to increase your clients chances at a leading role in a story, including one that is a sure way to be forgotten next time.
Make us a priority and we will pay you back
When you have an event coming up, a new product or any change in the company’s management, tell the people who matter first. Don’t tell the radio station, the college newspaper or even your dog. Plain and simple we want to know we are the most important and we want to be there for our viewers or readers by giving them the information first.
I wrote a story today about an organization that will go unmentioned that has no real concept of public relations. They called everyone they could think of. All those places they could think of didn’t include our 199,524 daily and 334,422 Sunday circulation newspaper.
We didn’t run their story for four months, holding on to it until some new information surfaced and until the organization understood who had priority. The story is running now, but maybe your client won’t be that lucky.
Make sure we at least know when you’re going to be unveiling something, even if we don’t get sole rights or priority when running it. We don’t want a surprise when we see the competitions piece just as much as you don’t want to be shocked when we don’t write the article about with your client.
Be prepared to talk to us
You wanted us to call, right? Then know what to say when we do.
You know journalists want info, but more importantly we want to talk to someone who is going to give us colorful quotes and memorable anecdotes. If the client is just giving us information, that’s not going to fly. We might attribute that information, if it can’t be found online (which isn’t likely) but we’d rather they just know what to say. It’s another win-win situation. The journalist won’t have to search out a different source and your client will be in the story.
As a journalist, I talk to a handful of people for each story but can only use the few who are most interesting and lend themselves to the hook of the piece-which my editor decides. My advice? Spend some time on media coaching. We don’t want the source to sound fake or rehearsed because that’s a sure sign they won’t be included, but the key is to have the right information and know what to expect in an interview and how to handle questions.
Don’t expect too much
Just because we interview your client and you spent lots of time and effort making sure they are front and center, doesn’t mean the story is going to be all about them. If the story really lies in some other aspect of the event, it’s the journalist’s job to report that.
For example, a few weeks ago I was working on a preview for an event. I interviewed someone who showed me around and introduced me to other sources. I ended up centering the entire story on someone he introduced me to as an afterthought, leaving the original main source to be secondary with one quote. He and his company weren’t happy because it was hosting the event and I didn’t mention it at all.
Writers try to think of the most creative way to tell a story, not how to fit your client in. Because of this, sometimes we determine your client might not necessarily be what audiences care about.
In a news story with a same-day turnaround, it’s likely that the source you provided will end up in the article along with the client’s name. But if it’s a feature story that has a few weeks to be written, this is when you should pay attention most. Features stories are longer and provide more space to fit your client into. The name will at least be dropped, but maybe the focus will be on something else entirely. Instead of marketing your brand or a particular person, try to sell the journalist an idea.
For example, if you are working for a charity or cause, instead of telling us about the event, tell us about the project. We will mention the charity, but maybe it’s about the work that’s actually being done that we want to write about.
Don’t overload us with information
If you think giving us tons of facts about your company or corporation, or coming to us with more and more sources after we’ve already talked with you is going to get your client more publicity, don’t bother.
Sometimes you can be offering us valid information, but most of the time we have enough. It’s our job to ask questions, and when we don’t get the right answers or think of something while writing, we will call you-trust me. We will call you more times than you (or we for that matter) want us to by the end of the process thanks to nitpicky editors.
If you do actually end up giving journalists tons of good stuff, the story risks losing focus. While it is your client and you know more than we ever will, follow our questioning and what piques our interest about the conversation and you will be able to tell where our story is headed. This will make it easier for you to offer up only the information we want and need.
Don’t EVER encourage us to do a great job for your client
There’s nothing that will bring us back to reality after you’ve swayed and awed us for the last hour than you saying you want us to help your effort, get the word out about the cause, get more people interested in your product, get more people to come to an event, [insert any PR or marketing objective here.]
When journalists hear those words, it brings them back to the real reason we suffer through countless deadlines, looming layoffs and ever-expanding work weeks: the truth.
When we graduated from J-school we had dreams of being reporters at metropolitan dailies or broadcasting on the station with the No. 1 market share. We didn’t go through all that education and work two jobs to get the experience we needed to be a concert promoter, a non-profit advocate, a product spokesperson or a cheerleader.
We’re not going to win a Pulitzer Prize for covering your product launch, campaign or bake sale but we do it because we know people in the community care. So we’ll finish this story and file it by deadline because we know it’s important to someone out there. But next time we are looking for a story, we’ll look for a source a little less patronizing who understands what it is we do.