Today’s PR work allows little time or personal interaction with journalists, at least until it comes to a face-to-face interview. Due to information overload, journalists have extremely short attention spans, sometimes only a few seconds. Before pitching to a journalist, please ensure the story’s “news value.”
At least one of these factors should be present before you start pitching:
- Is it topical?
- Does it have drama/conflict proximity?
- Could it be of interest to the readership of the medium?
- Does it have a real news character?
- Could it be of public importance?
When pitching to journalists, ensure the story has real news character, and please: keep it short, simple, and direct. Put your “ask” up front and give additional detail in a follow-up or below your signature. That way, the journalist can get the idea and access more information if interested.
We work with journalists of different generations: baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), Generation X (born between 1965 and 1976), Generation Y/millennials (born between 1977 and 1997), and Generation Z (born after 1997).
Working with journalists has changed significantly as PR has undergone significant transformations.
Suppose we step back into the last century, to the late 80s. “Once upon a time,” public relations was done by phone, telex, fax, and interpersonal. A company spokesperson would meet a journalist in a bar for a coffee or even a G&T to brief them about the latest company news. This work was certainly more cumbersome and time-consuming, but on the other hand, much more personal and interactive; and helpful for building up a PR pro’s personal journalist network.
The good news: this has not changed over the last three decades
Journalists still value honesty, reliability and professionalism. They appreciate it if you respect their preferences and deadlines and do not spam them with multiple messages or calls, but follow up politely and promptly. Journalists often appreciate traditional values such as transparency, objectivity and independence (Kovach and Rosenstiel 2014).
Are you pitching to a millennial journalist? They may like chatting or emailing best, too. If you’re pitching to a journalist your parent’s age, they may want to talk by phone.
Gen Z journalists, for example, have an even shorter attention span and prefer visually appealing and concise content formats. Videos and images can help capture and retain their attention in PR efforts.
Remember, some journalists still do like talking on the phone. Over the last couple of years, texting may have become our preferred method of communication with our family and friends because it is easy, fast, and can be done parallel to other activities.
It might become a habit to want to pitch media to journalists only via email, but one crucial rule applies here, too: every journalist has their own communication channel preferences.
Especially during the last couple of years, we have even experienced journalists who prefer to be left voicemails, and they email back. Don’t hesitate to ask them directly when you first talk to them! Take the time to figure out the best communication channels for good relationship building.
Good communication is worth your while: a good journalist network is half the battle for successful press relations.