Every company wants positive media coverage. It helps build brand and executive profile awareness, attract new customers, and drive sales. But it can be a challenge as newsrooms continue to shrink.
Some journalists receive over 100 email pitches per day and open roughly 3% of them. Standing out is hard.
Fortunately, there is always room to try new tools and build stronger relationships with the media. At Cognito, we help financial, technology and professional services organizations be covered in trade and business publications. How we do this is sometimes luck, but more frequently due to skill.
I recently spoke to reporters at some of the largest, most prestigious outlets, trying to work out what separates good communications work from the bad. I'm thankful to these journalists, including reporters from the Wall Street Journal, ABC, and Insider, for informing this list of five ways to boost coverage.
1. Pitch new story angles from old news
In 2019, the Wall Street Journal published a feature story on Rich Barton, CEO of tech real estate marketplace company Zillow. Barton had a bullish outlook on iBuyer at the time, Zillow’s home-flipping business. Two years later, labor and supply shortages caused Zillow to exit that business.
The old interview with Barton can be used to create new story angles to pitch journalists today – What's changed about the iBuying business model since it launched? or How do rising interest rates impact home values and transaction volume?
One way to approach reporter Vanessa Fuhrmans with a new pitch would be to offer commentary based on the new angle from subject matter experts. This personalizes the pitch. The journalist is familiar with the story and has already done reporting. If the pitch is timely enough, she may find value in doing a follow-up story.
2. Offer access to real people
Journalists do not have a Rolodex with the names and numbers of every person on the planet. Often they struggle to find people to illustrate trends and stories who can both provide the right perspective and a pithy quote.
Consider a story about the differences in back-to-office occupancy rates in Asia compared to North America. The average person on the street won't be able to offer an opinion. But someone who might is the Chief People Officer of a global company. They would understand the differences across regions and discuss how things are changing.
Think outside the box. While most companies are inclined to put forward only their media-trained experts for interview opportunities, offering access to a wider network of sources simplifies a journalist’s job and can achieve effective brand mentions.
3. Embrace ‘solutions journalism’
A 2021 survey from the Solutions Journalism Network found that over 50% of respondents prefer the ‘news you can use’-style of journalism to problem-focused stories. They are everywhere – 3 ways to cut tech costs, 10 ways to engage talent, 5 steps to digital transformation. My blog is another example! These accessible, user-friendly advice pieces get written because of popular demand from readers. Craft your next story pitch by offering a number of solutions to common questions or problems.
4. Build credibility
When assessing story ideas, journalists will almost immediately search online for two things: whether the story was recently covered and whether the information and sources are credible. Make it easier for them by including a few sentences about the source’s expertise and links to past media interactions. Recent videos and podcast clips are especially helpful. If the experts you’re pitching don’t yet have reputable media coverage, consider building exposure through smaller media outlets. This helps unseasoned spokespeople develop their comfort levels and increase media appearances that inch them closer to bigger outlets.
5. Be quick
When journalists reply to story pitches, they are often on deadline and need information and sources quickly. Waiting too long can result in missed opportunities. Try to schedule interviews within a day or two and keep prompt communication going. It may not always be possible to fit last-minute interview requests into executives’ busy schedules, especially if they live across different timezones. If that’s the case, consider media-training a larger pool of employees. Ask if journalists will accept written responses. It’s often less time-consuming to control the message by writing out replies, and in many cases, it yields similar results as lengthy conversations.
Vanja Lakic is a PR Account Manager in Cognito's New York office