PRs vs Journalists: Pitch your story rightly to the media, every time – II

This is the second part of a two-part story. Read the first part here.

Changing Market Dynamics

Besides having a regular input and output team, now there are unique digital content and integrated newsgathering teams in most media organizations, supported by the specialised team of SEOs/SMOs, Data Analysts, Google Analysts and so on. These are the next generation editorial teams geared up to face an ongoing challenge of convergence within media. There is a convergence of print media, broadcast media, digital media, social media and radio content (podcast), and a rat-race to be ahead of everyone with the largest mobile audiences in their kitty.

It’s a tough time for journalists to accept and adapt to this convergence. The digital immigrants among the journalists are lagging, and the intelligent and savvy digital natives are positioned strongly. It’s a battle, which no media organization would like to lose.

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the media industry went through a horrific churning process. Balance sheets were trimmed by showing thousands of needless journalists and editorial and technical staff, the exit door.

As a result, in today’s scenario, journalists are not in a good mindset. The majority of quality journalists are unemployed or doing some freelancing work with poor returns. Journalists who have switched to digital content writing are either not getting the right assignments or ending up working less than 12-14 hours a day.

Investigative journalism has been almost killed, and those who are still trying to keep the journalism flag high are being penalized with criminal cases across the country. Mass Media and Communication Institutes are charging exorbitant fees but with no placement guarantee in any media houses. Those continuing their work in the same organization are getting less salary with no job opportunity and no freedom to express themselves. Thus, a good number of journalists are on the verge of quitting journalism for a better option. No doubt, it is a challenging phase for journalism.

PR professionals need to understand the depth and seriousness of changing media dynamics while communicating with journalists. Journalists are looking for good stories—a story that could justify their byline scoop and convince their superiors for an easy nod. Here, the PR expertise could play the more prominent expected role.

Dos and Don’ts

The million-dollar question for every PR professional is “how to pitch a story to a journalist”? Well – no rocket science, just follow the basics.

What do journalists HATE about the ‘PRs’, as they tend to call these pros? First, what should not be done – strictly (the Don’ts)

  • Update your media-list, before making that first call
  • Never call a journalist without having “any exclusive content/story/info” for them
  • Always do your basic research while pitching the story.
  • Always be ready to face a journalist’s unexpected queries.
  • Never pitch “incorrect or obsolete info.”
  • Don’t assume or speculate – get the exact words/queries from the Journalists.
  • Don’t call them with “high expectations” OR “please do a favour” type of request.
  • Never call a journalist during “peak hours” that begin after 5 pm for most media organisations
  • Never send a poorly written press release with “missing selling points.”
  • Be honest and never mislead
  • Don’t argue or lose temper while chatting with journalists
  • Don’t behave dumb or try to be an over-smart person before them
  • Don’t say “Kill / Drop your story”; instead, give valid reasons why the story is “irrelevant”.
  • Don’t sell “your client/company”; sell “your story”.

What the journalists LOVE about the PRs- the Dos.

  • Give a piece of exclusive and credible information supported by authentic data/numbers
  • Timely quotes/official statements to meet the deadline
  • Speed of response
  • Be honest and prepared to face queries
  • Inform the journalist while changing jobs
  • Help them in personal/financial matters

To sum up, journalists need PR professionals in their successful journey, but as intelligent and worthy partners. Journalists seek interesting and exclusive “content and ideas” from their counterparts all the time. So, never mind if they reject your story. Just try to pitch it in the right way.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Virendrasingh Ghunawat
Virendrasingh Ghunawat, Head Media Relations at Concept PR Ltd is a media professional with experience of 23 years in Print, Television and Digital Media. Viren has had his stints with Indian Express, India Today Group, Network18, TV9 Media, Rajasthan Patrika, Jagran Group, Business Newsweek, Fortune India to name a few, in various capacities. With strong interpersonal skills and network within state/central enforcement agencies, government departments, political parties, corporates, unorganised sectors, regional/national media, his strengths, and capabilities lie in strategising communication across verticals, media strategy, media relations, digital PR, crisis communication, corporate reputation management, brand protection and frauds/forensic analysis for clients, across various sectors.

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