Feb 24, 2011
When you’re trying to get media attention, think like a reporter. Easier said than done? Well, here are a few tips from Chicago reporters about what not to do.
Last week, Chip Mitchell of Chicago Public Radio told our Professional Media Relations participants that if he sees certain words in an email subject line, the email automatically gets deleted. Words to avoid? ‘Anniversary,’ ‘awards,’ ‘benefits,’ ‘fundraisers,’ and ‘annual’ to name a few.
Why, you might ask yourself, do these words result in the big, fat delete button? They seem harmless, and as nonprofits, we often have benefits or annual events we want to promote. But, as I’ve been chanting to my nonprofit clients and friends for years, your annual report is not news! Your annual dinner is not news! Unless someone famous will be speaking or you’re releasing new information at your annual event or fundraiser, it’s probably not going to be of interest to a reporter. The event is likely very important to other audiences you want to reach–donors, volunteers, community members. But, the media is not one of those audiences.
The takeaway? Be thoughtful about what you pitch to reporters – make sure you have news – and make every word in your subject line count.
Once you’ve actually interested a reporter in your story, what should you avoid during subsequent phone calls and interviews? Former WGN radio reporter Wes Bleed, now at Mack Communications, writes about what you should and should not say to a reporter on the firm’s blog. There are some good tips here, including, “Avoid saying ‘no comment.’ It looks like you’ve got something to hide.”
One my old coworkers at Valerie Denney Communications used to say, “Only gangsters and corrupt politicians say no comment.”
To throw in my two cents, I always imagine reporters’ inboxes overflowing with emails, and based on what I’ve heard from busy reporters, it sounds like that’s not too far off the mark. Make your email stand out. If you don’t receive a response, follow up with a phone call! Once you have the reporter interested in doing your story, make sure your spokespeople are prepared for the interview.
Happy pitching everyone.