Five Ways to be Valuable to a Reporter Right Now

Imagine if every day when you came to work, you were forced to endure the fact that people outside of your profession were going to constantly berate you for doing your job.

Then imagine those same people had no idea how to do your job, but wanted to yell at you because they disagreed with you.

Does this sound familiar? It should.

Welcome to the state of journalism in 2018!

Not only has journalism found itself warding off attacks from all sides this past year, but journalists are overworked because we need them more than ever, which is the height of irony.

(If you have a few minutes: read this op-ed in the New York Times on truthfulness and fake news. It shines a light on what journalists have to deal with on a regular basis.)

On top of the daily attacks and being over-worked, journalists are underpaid.

Ridiculed. Overworked. Underpaid. Not appreciated.

How would you like that to be your job description?

Thankfully, most of the reporters I have had the pleasure of dealing with are in the business because they love it.

They understand the role they play in this country’s growth, and they see their existence as vital to the well-being of this great country.

On a somewhat less important level, however, the health of the public relations industry is directly tied to the health of journalism, even if there has been a significant shift in owned media vs. earned media.

If journalism dies, public relations probably dies along with it, although our death would be slow and painful and full of uncertainty.

So it’s up to us, as PR professionals, to do our part to help journalists thrive, even if we it’s a bit of selfish act on our part to land better coverage for our clients.

Here’s how you can become valuable to a reporter right now and beyond.

Buy Them a Coffee

Coffee is the unofficial drink to have during conversations, and I am a huge proponent of having coffee with as many people as you can.

Every single journalist is a natural born storyteller. Thus, they want to know where to find the best stories.

If you buy them a coffee and spend an hour with them, you will come to understand what they are looking for in a story and then be able to provide them with better ideas when you pitch them a story down the road.

It’s more valuable if you can meet with a reporter who is new to a city or beat.

Rarely will a reporter turn down an invite if their schedule allows, because it’s implied it can lead to better pitches down the road.

Speaking of pitches…

Don’t Send Stupid Pitches

Not only is sending a pitch that doesn’t fall in the reporter’s wheelhouse a fast way to lost their trust, but you risk being outed for bad behavior on Dear PR, which I imagine is the same as being blackballed in Hollywood.

With less reporters shouldering more reporting responsibilities, it is in yours and your client’s best interest to give reporters ideas they can actually use.

This involves reading their stories, researching the publication to find the right reporter to pitch, and not sending the same pitch to five different reporters in the hopes that one will bite.

It’s not that hard, yet, it seems we still need some practice.

Share Their Content

In this day and age of reporting the news, the savvy reporters know they need to be active on social media, and the most successful reporters already use their personal channels to share their content.

But we can help by sharing their content, as well. But don’t do it and expect that to improve the odds they will cover your news; do it because it’s an interesting piece that you truly believe your audience would benefit from reading.

Read Their Coverage

This one falls back to the stupid pitch idea: read what the reporters are writing about to gain a better understanding of their beat.

It’s one thing to use Cision to pull a list of reporters who cover technology, but there are many areas within tech that are covered by different reporters.

Instead of taking a stab in the dark with your email pitch, read the coverage to discover who is interested in your technology pitch specifically, then target them.

Buy a News Subscription

The New York Times doubled their audience last year, with 3.5 million paid subscriptions helping to move “The Gray Lady” to unexpected profit. This, alone, would be a signal that things are on the upswing for journalists, but one year does not a success story make.

I don’t know about you, but it’s frustrating trying to read articles in the Washington Post and Times when I keep running up against my monthly limit, so I bought paid digital subscriptions for each to do my part (and I’m a more informed citizen and professional because of it.)

You can subscribe to both for less than $20/month, which is totally worth it in this 24/7 media barrage.

And, by doing so, you’re helping to keep alive an institution that is vital to our democracy, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Photo by Philip Strong on Unsplash

  • Katy Bandemer Teer

    Spot on – I adopted the philosophy long ago to share stories and not pitches. This shows that you have a good understanding of the reporter, you’ve built a relationship with them, and you’re sharing things show how important something is to you because it’s important to them.

    • Katy, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen or heard reporters complain about getting a pitch that has nothing to do with their beat. The more relevant we can make the story for the reporter, the more valuable we become, and the more secure we can make the profession. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

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