Want to get your company news into media? It'll never happen unless you start by understanding what editors and reporters want. To find out what works, I spoke to editors and reporters at top media organizations across country.
The editors quoted here work at top 100 papers and some of highest visibility media in United States. Their answers prove that there is no magic formula: getting press coverage for a company is not an easy feat.
Just The Facts M'am One overwhelming rule emerged. Be brief when you pitch a story. Stick to facts, get them into who, what, where, when and "why should I care" format. "If it's more than ½ a page it won't even get skimmed," says Charlie Crumpley, Business Editor of The Daily Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, OK. "I don't mind going to a web site for full information, if I'm interested."
"Just bare bones," said Jerry Underwood, Business Editor of The Birmingham Times, Birmingham, AL. "And I prefer to be contacted before a general press release goes out to everyone." Jennifer Couzin, reporter for The Industry Standard says to keep initial information to "two or three paragraphs in a quick email."
Says Leslie Eaton, Economics Reporter, The New York Times, "Send a quick email first. If it involves a serious study I want to see whole thing."
TIP: Keep your initial contact or release to 200 words or less. Make sure you cover who, what, when, where and why and give at least two names as contacts. If an editor wants to do story, they will ask for more information.
Be Reachable! Don't use superlatives. The more you use least likely you are to be trusted. Journalists are trained to check when you say your mother's name is Susan Jones. If you say you are first or only, you'd better have a patent or some other proof to back up your claim.
One often-cited annoyance was that contact people were not available to reporters and editors on deadline. "At least give me one alternative person to contact," says Danny Sandy, Business reporter for The Fresno Bee, Fresno, CA. "Many times we get a release with a name and number and then find out that person is out of town for week and can't be reached."
Don't Send Email Attachments If you send your pitch or release by email, make it plain text with no attachments. David Joachim, Senior Managing Editor at Internet Week says "We have a policy against opening attachments. I would never risk it." As Crumpley notes, "Email can be lethal." A virus could put a writer out of commission.
An editor may be on road, accessing email long-distance on a laptop with limited batteries. Most journalists simple delete attachments under those circumstances. One email rule agreed upon by every editor: never send a group email that shows your entire press list.