I was recently asked to write an article for What Investment magazine on spread betting (I’ll post a link when it is published), which is the first time that I have written in a freelance journalist capacity. Having spent eleven years trying to get journalists to write about my clients or my company, I now found myself on the other side of the fence and it was an enlightening experience.
Writing a feature for a magazine is actually quite different to the writing that I was used to, which is primarily news releases, thought-leadership articles or features for internal magazines. What was refreshingly new was the impartiality aspect of the writing – normally I am used to having an agenda and pushing a particular point of view, but now I was free to take the article in any direction that felt right.
I dealt with around eight different organisations and commentators for this piece and found it quite an eye-opener. Consequently, I have some tips for organisations dealing with journalist requests, especially if you don’t have a dedicated PR person:
- Ignore the deadline. If you want the coverage, get off your arse, drop whatever else it is you were doing and sort it out straight away. The earlier you get your information and quote to the journalist the greater the chance that it will make it into the early drafts of their article. Plus the greater the chance that you can actually influence the direction of the article.
- Don’t send too much. It’s better to send three carefully crafted paragraphs which get to the point than send two pages of data. Just make life simple for the journalist. Reading an essay is a lot of work.
- Don’t cop out by sending pre-existing press releases, articles or reports. Don’t tell the journalist that everything they need to know is ‘on page 9 of 27’. Pull together a bespoke response and do the legwork yourself.
- Try and take a different point of view to the masses. If a journalist has got nine separate people saying roughly the same thing then you are competing for airtime. If you take a contrary opinion to the rest of the sheep then you immediately stand out.
- Be human. Don’t make your spokespeople sound like robots. We’re writing for people here, so speak like a real person, not like a corporate drone.
- Clarify exactly what is needed. If the journalist’s initial request is a little generic then feel free drill down into a bit more detail. At this stage, the brief their editor has given them may well be fairly open, so if you are savvy, this is your time to suggest different angles.
- Make sure you have stock items like photos and case studies on file.