Media relations today is very different today than it was 30 years ago when I first started out in journalism.
I know it sounds like a cliche to say, but it was a gentler and kinder media back then.
It was easier to reach the media at TV stations and newspapers. They actually answered their own phones — you didn’t have emails back then. You didn’t have as many gatekeepers to get around.
It wasn’t as competitive or cutthroat.
If you had a client who wanted to be interviewed by the media, you could pick up the phone and talk to an editor or reporter and pitch your news angle directly to them. In your city, you were on a first-name basis with them. Once you reached out to other cities, you might not know them personally, but they answered their phone calls.
Today, you can always reach a live person in the TV newsroom and 99.9 percent of the time that person will take the time to talk to you and check if they received your news alert or press release.
You have about 90-seconds to pitch your story.
Newspapers around the country are a different animal. I swear some papers do not want to talk to people. There have been newspaper websites that do not have their staff listings online. At one paper’s website, the only number I found was for advertising or circulation. Sometimes, I have had to google the name of the paper with the words “staff listing” to find the website page with the contact information.
I am not a novice when it comes to websites. Some have contact information at the top or in the main menu. Others have it at the bottom in the foot area. Some, just don’t have anything other than a main number.
Here is what I do for a media relations clients who want to be interviewed by a newspaper reporter or TV news reporter. I first go to the TV stations’ websites to find the on-air team bios. Some stations make it easy to find emails for their anchors and reporters. A few just have a news tip email address or newsroom phone number. When the emails are available, I usually get all the emails except for those journalists who obviously wouldn’t cover our story, such as the traffic reporter.
What I find amazing is how many TV anchors and reporters do not list their direct lines or emails. I kind of understand TV personalities not having their phone numbers listed. We live in a stalker society. But emails?
I could be Deep Throat with a biggest news story of the decade and I would have trouble reaching some of these journalists.
At most stations, I almost always find an anchor or reporter who does list their emails. They are the ones who will get the scoop of the century simply because they can be reached.
Then I research the emails and phone numbers for the local newspapers. If they have a listing, I look for the reporter or editor who will most likely cover our news story. Usually, a features or business editor/reporter, and sometimes a general assignment writer. I also look for the big editors for the city desk, etc.
The first challenge, as mentioned earlier, is just finding the email addresses. The second challenge is finding a person who will tell you if they received the email. When you call a TV station newsroom someone will look to see if your press release is in the assignment “day folder.” If you are in that folder, you have a chance of being covered. At the newspaper, perhaps because it is a larger operation, no one knows if they received the information. And they won’t look for it. The best you can hope for is to resend it to the person you talked to on the phone.
Now that I have all the email addresses, I send off an email and press release to everyone on my list. This email pitches the news hook to get them interested in the story. If you can’t find a news hook, you are out of luck.
There was one stretch of time when I had responses within 24 hours from a morning producer or assignment editor. Almost always the TV news stations. Almost never from newspapers.
Once we get scheduled for the TV news stations, we make the travel arrangements for the client to get to and from the station. Usually, I use a taxicab service.
You have to reconfirm everything. Send an email to confirm the date, time and location. Reconfirm with the taxi service and the time the client will be picked up.
Usually, everything goes well.
We have been bumped because of a big news story. A bomb threat once knocked us off the morning show, but they did tape the interview and played it the next day.
It is always a challenge. Just pay attention to the details.