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How to get the media’s attention

If you want to be seen in all the right places in the media, you have to give the media what it wants. So here is a list of ten things journalists are looking for, to help make sure your content gets picked up rather than binned.

Horrible truths
Robert Haslam, senior consultant at PR and marketing agency Big Ideas Machine, says: “Journalists want salacious comments about competitors. They want industry rumours. To hear the truth about how a company is doing, not a spin on it. Basically, journalists want the things that PROs are rarely able to give them.

Plenty of facts
“The real challenge is balancing what a journalist needs, with what you can actually say and how many buzzwords your client wants to get featured. Journalists are typically so tight on time, that they need as many facts as possible. The more waffle you include, the harder you make it for them to edit down.”

Haslam concludes: “It’s important to remember that a journalist isn’t part of your client’s marketing department. They aren’t paid by your client to write puff pieces. They want to write news. So give them news.”

What they have asked for!
Nishal Ratanji, manager, at agency Golin, says: “Ultimately, the type of content journalists want typically comes down to the sort of article they are writing and who they are writing it for. Factors such as wordcount and house style play a huge part, so it is always worth doing your homework before pitching any content.”

Something snappy
Ratanji continues: “In terms of general trends, I would say that shorter, snappier soundbites are much more welcome today than lengthy paragraphs of comments. High-res images are also a growing favourite on the B2B side of life and if you have any statistics or fast facts relevant to the piece the journalist is writing, then you've hit the jackpot!”

No video in B2B
Ratanji says that when it comes to video content and vox-pops, these are yet to catch on in B2B: “I know that journalists on the consumer side have been using video for a long, long time on their web pages, however, widespread adoption in B2B is yet to happen.”

News-relevant copy
Katie Mallinson, founder of agency Scriba PR, believes that it is a good idea to focus on what is happening in the news: “Journalists are always on the lookout for topical pieces of content. So if you’re looking to catch the attention of a particular reporter, then piggyback on any timely news whether its an industry-specific, regional or even national story. Use this piece of news as the introduction or a hook to your comment, and be willing to give a personal, sometimes outspoken, opinion.”

interesting research
Mallinson adds that research can be attractive to journalists: “It’s important to remember that journalists also want fresh, research-based content. Whilst they generally love receiving outspoken opinions from business people that are happy to stick their head above the parapet, comment pieces really come to life if evidenced with statistics. They appear to be particularly interested if the statistics shed a new angle on a heavily covered subject. Typically, if a business has surveyed their customer base, acquired some facts and figures, and shares those with a journalist, they are likely to achieve coverage. This is because reporters are constantly searching for information and analysis to help inform the reader about the important issues of the day. And if you make the life of that journalist a little bit easier, they're more likely to use the content.”

Good writing
Good writing is vital. Samuel Wakefield, account manager at agency Fast Track, repeats author George Orwell’s top tips for great prose:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech you are used to seeing in print
  2. Never use a long word when a short one will do
  3. If it is possible to cut a word, always cut it out (‘that’ should never be seen in your content)
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous (use your common sense on when to apply the above five rules)

Wakefield adds: “Orwell’s tips give you’re the framework for good, impactful writing. As we’re all aware, journalists are busy, receive many emails and are wont to skim read. Keeping your content short, sharp and effective will give you the best chance it landing in print.”

Great video content
Although there is not great demand for video in B2B according to Golin's Nishal Ratanji, video is very attractive if it is appropriate for the audience, not just for broadcast, but for online journalists. Keren Haynes, owner of agency Shout! Communications, offers some advice for creating great video: “When websites first began hosting video, the content could be brand-tastic, but today something more subtle is the order of the day. A verbal mention in a sound clip, an Aston (the writing on screen, typically giving the speaker’s name and title) or possibly a visual brand reference would be as much as you could hope for now.

“Online journalists are great advocates of the less-is-more school. An optimum length for a video is around one-and-a-half to two minutes, and we recommend using an editing technique, a change of music or pace around the minute mark in an attempt to re-engage the viewer.

“Talking of music, that aspect has fallen into favour with websites - perhaps a reflection of the demographic of the audience they tend to attract. The music has to fit the images though - a sombre subject needs suitably sombre music for example. 

“Online journalists need the interviewees to tell the story themselves, with no help from a reporter-style voiceover. The video producer must ensure that sound clips complete the story as well as cover the key messages; online journalists don't want their users to know they use PR content.  

“For this reason, graphics should also be kept fairly modest - they need to look like something the website could have produced itself. Keep it simple so your video sits comfortably alongside every other video on the site - if it stands out like a sore thumb it will be rejected.”

To synthesise our list of ten things journalists want into a one neat soundbite, the best content you can offer the media is interesting, factual and snappy!

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