I recently had the opportunity to attend a conference in New Orleans on marketing and public relations that featured several great breakout sessions. John Pope, a veteran reporter/columnist with the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, hosted one of these sessions.
Mr. Pope shared fascinating stories from his experiences over the years and offered some general advice for PR professionals. His tips might seem a little basic, but they are good reminders to be direct, unique, and efficient as we try to get our pitch or news release noticed by a shrinking number of reporters.
1. Keep it simple – focus on a really good headline and get right to the point in your lead sentence. Pope said on average he takes about five seconds to read a news release.
2. Be unique – tell them something about your story that’s different. Rather than a release about a professor who is an expert in dental identification, highlight an interesting fact about his career or research – he was part of the team that identified Adolph Hitler from his dental remains.
3. Develop a speaker’s bureau – identify content experts in your company or organization who are available to be interviewed on topics related to their expertise; share this list with reporters on a regular basis.
4. Resist adding quotes – they usually don’t add much to a news release and most reporters won’t use them. If they are really interested in the story they will request an interview and get their own quotes.
5. Email is best – The phone call usually is not effective and should only be considered if you have already sent something to the reporter in an email. Be sure to paste all of the content you can directly in the email to cut down on the reporter having to open attachments.