5 Ways for PR Pros to Think Like Journalists


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It’s a perennial in the PR field: If you want to stoke any interest in your media pitches, you have to think more like a journalist. But the theory doesn’t always translate into practice.

There’s ample opportunity for communicators and PR pros to demonstrate their journalistic chops, whether by writing press releases devoid of flowery language or simply knowing if a pitch is even appropriate for the outlet.

Nonetheless, we still get a fair share of press releases that are stuffed with superlatives (and self-serving quotes from the CEO), rather than being crafted as news items, not to mention plenty of inappropriate pitches (no, we don’t cover IT).

For PR pros, thinking like a journalist should not be a one-shot deal (depending on the job at hand), but more of a mindset that permeates everything you do, particularly when it comes to media relations.

With that in mind, here are a few tips on how PR pros can adopt journalistic characteristics, compliments of Christina Gillham, a senior writer and media specialist with Stern + Associates.

> Become a news junkie. Pay more attention to everything you read—and read a lot. Constantly seek new story ideas and news angles. Scour headlines, be curious and know what the media world is talking about.

> Understand a journalist’s beat, down to the granular level. Follow the journalists with whom you most hope to connect on Twitter and other social media. This will give you an idea of what interests them and what they’re thinking about.

> Find a peg—a newsworthy item to which you can connect the product, service or individual you are trying to pitch. Answer the “so what?” question journalists inevitably ask, and you’re halfway there.

> Write a compelling and creative headline that captures in a few pithy words the core of your pitch. A catchy and concise headline will help a journalist better see your story.

> When crafting your pitch, make it succinct and present the facts without the insider jargon and flowery adjectives (as the old saying goes—well, sort of—brevity is the soul of a good media pitch). Be objective about what you’re pitching, keeping the salesy aspect to a bare minimum.

What would you add to the list?

To learn more about media relations, order a copy of PR News' Media Relations Guidebook, Vol. 2.

Follow Matthew Schwartz on Twitter: @mpsjourno1 


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About Matthew Schwartz

Group Editor, PR News: Matthew Schwartz is group editor of PR News, the leading source of trends, how-to content and best practices for PR professionals. Matthew leads the editorial strategy for PR News’ premium content products—including its weekly newsletter—and for its digital presence. Matthew was editor of PR News from 2003-2005. Prior to returning to PR News, Matthew was a reporter for Crain’s BtoB and Media Business magazines, where he covered business marketers and media companies. He was also editor of BMA Buzz, a biweekly email newsletter covering B2B marketing, advertising and social media, and contributing writer to Advertising Age Custom. Matthew has helped to launch blogs on behalf of ZoomInfo and direct marketing agency The Kern Organization. He also spent a few years in cable-news precincts, working as a writer/producer at CNN and Fox News Channel.

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