How To Get a Reporter’s Attention

In last month’s Getting Attention, we talked about how to get better media coverage. Among the speakers I heard at the Communications Network conference was Mark O’Keefe, Newhouse News Service’s values and philanthropy correspondent. Mark provided these very concrete tips on how to get a reporter’s attention:

  1. Know the stories the reporter writes and make a pitch that fits with those subjects. Do the work to find out what s/he’s interested in.Before you call the journalist for the first time, do your research on his or her recent stories, then send an email with your comments and a very soft and respectful pitch (i.e. “I thought you might be interested in…”).
  2. Respect news judgment (what runs) and the reporter’s time management.
  3. Aim for a long-term working relationship with the journalist, instead of quick-hit story coverage.
  4. Invite the reporter to lunch or a cup of coffee. The best way to get him or her to your news conference may be to precede or follow it with lunch. But don’t be offended if the journalist insists on paying his or her own way, even if it’s a spread you put on at your place. Some news organizations don’t allow freebies, not even a sandwich.
  5. Look for the “teachable moment” with one eye trained on today’s breaking news and, better yet, what will be in tomorrow’s news.Target your story on what your organization is doing that impacts breaking news (even sports), rather than simply reporting on activities.

What NOT to do? Mark advises:

  1. Don’t leave long voicemails.
  2. Don’t focus on why the story is important to you, rather than to the reporter and to his or her readers.
  3. Don’t think there’s only one right story about your organization – instead of many.
  4. Don’t get annoyed or act rudely if the story on your organization is cut or doesn’t run.

Definitely words to the wise. Thanks so much Mark!