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Idealog—in the ideas business

How to get covered by a journalist

A well-targeted interview in the media can be worth thousands in advertising. But most interviews don’t “just happen”—they’re the result of business owners or PR people pitching stories.

As an entrepreneur who’s also a freelance journalist, I’ve been on both sides of the microphone. And on the journalist’s side, I’ve seen my share of bad pitches.

So here’s what impresses me—and what rubs me up the wrong way—plus some ways to make yourself and your business easier to write about.

Do …

Be newsworthy. Why should your story be front-page news? (Hint: it goes back to who you’re talking to, and what problem you solve for them.)

Know the journalist you’re pitching to. What do they write about? What are they interested in? (The same applies to bloggers, by the way.)

Include detailed information on your website, even if it’s under construction. By that we mean the full company name, the names of key contacts, contact details (email and phone are a good start).

Keep a blog. Include news about your company, but also blog about the things you’re passionate about. There are some things you just can’t say in an elevator pitch, but you can say them over time. Seeing what you’ve posted about gives journalists—and your customers—more of a sense of who you are, and what you’re about. (If a blog is too hard, try a Twitter account.)

Have a job title on your business card. Yes, even if you’re one of those woolly startups where everyone does everything. Magazines and newspapers like to refer to people by their title.

Have an electronic media kit that includes a brief history of the company, bios of the founders and high-resolution photos of key staff—preferably in an interesting, relevant setting, and without cheesy props like computer displays.

Don’t …

Tell us what to write. If you want control, buy an ad.

Ask to see the article before it’s published. Decide in advance what you do and don’t want to disclose. And trust the journalist, they do this for a living.

Bribe. Sure, it’s nice receiving stuff, as long as there is no expectation that because you’ve given me a clock and an umbrella, that I’m going to write only nice things about you. (Okay, substitute “a really nice coffee” for clock and umbrella in the current financial climate.)

Milestones in marketing

Before 1600

People buy and sell their stuff in markets. Most sellers are also buyers, and vice versa. The relationship between buyer and seller is that of equals.

1600

The world’s largest ever corporation is formed, the East India Company, which dominates world trade for 150 years. Its marketing is not so sophisticated, mostly relying on monopoly power and opium to ensure its profits.

c. 1900

The concept of marketing is formulated, springing from the relatively new field of economics.

1920-1990 (arguably)

The golden age of advertising, as mainstream media like radio, TV and newspaper holds immense sway over people’s lives. Think Mad Men, the TV show that portrays a 1950s ad agency. Oh, the power!

1990s

The idea of Corporate Social Responsibility challenges the notion that business is solely about making money. It’s a hard sell, so some bright sparks point out that being good is also good for marketing. The facts, however, don’t necessarily agree (see page 58).

Other new ideas: Integrated Marketing Communications and One-to-One Marketing. Both of these methodologies revolutionise the way companies look at marketing, starting with the customer instead of the product.

Also this decade, a little technological innovation called the Internet.

2000s

The Internet begins deconstructing the media and marketing landscape we’d carefully built up over the previous 400-odd years, bringing us once again to the marketplace—where buyers and sellers are equal. Well, theoretically anyway.

Originally published in Idealog #22, page 84

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