By Maddie Handy, Edelman Calgary
I recently attended a media crawl hosted by IABC/Calgary. After filling up on coffee and croissants and meeting some of the other communicators on the tour, we hopped on a bus and made our way to three local newsrooms: Calgary Herald, CBC and CTV.
The purpose of the tour was to get a better sense of what it’s like to run and work in a newsroom, so that as communicators, we can be aware of the challenges and needs of our media colleagues. Reporters, editors and producers have the difficult task of sorting through hundreds of emails and phone calls every day to determine what information is relevant, timely and important for their audiences.
We met with editors and producers at each media organization for a tour and to hear about their daily challenges and preferences when receiving pitches. While each person had individual preferences, one clear theme was established throughout the day: They are all doing a lot more work, with fewer resources than ever before. With audiences demanding constant information at their fingertips, newsrooms have moved from working toward one or two deadlines every day, to facilitating a continuous flow of information on their websites and social media channels.
This evolution represents challenges and opportunities for communicators. We heard that our stories and pitches are extremely valuable and welcome, as long as they include the following key elements:
- All of the basic information (who, what, when, where, why, how)
- Contact information and spokesperson availability
- Information copied right into the body of emails, as well as attached for easy access
- Images – closely cropped, horizontal images that are recognizable on small mobile devices (often if they can’t make it to an event, they will take our photos and write a story for the web or social media)
- Video – raw and edited video are helpful, as long as the edited video is not overly promotional
Below are some additional considerations to keep in mind while working with media.
- Building strong relationships with media is key to standing out among the hundreds of emails and phone calls they receive on any given day. In the competitive world of news, being first and being interesting matters. Media are open to having conversations about your stories, but it’s important to only engage them when your story is newsworthy (don’t waste their time).
- Take the time to develop your stories and do the necessary research. Buy a newspaper and check-in on a variety of news sources to get to know what’s currently making news. Where does your story fit in the flow of news? Is there a specific reporter who would be interested in your story?
- Keep in mind that the news cycle varies from newsroom to newsroom. It’s important to be mindful of these deadlines and to send your pitches accordingly. Is embargoing your press release a possibility? This will give editors some time to get a jump on writing the story. As well, if you are inviting media to your event, be sure to send them the information at least three days in advance.
- Pitching etiquette – All of the representatives we spoke with recommended sending pitches via email and following up with a phone call. If there is no answer, it’s important to leave a message. While an email can easily be lost, a voicemail is more likely to get through. Draw the line at one or two follow-up calls and trust that if they are interested in your story, they will get back to you. They don’t always have time to follow up on every single pitch to say they aren’t interested.
It’s a jungle out there, and the best way to succeed is to get to know the people who are most likely to be covering your stories. If you are thoughtful and respectful with your approach to media relations (for example, don’t pitch a lifestyle story to a crime reporter), you will be more likely to succeed. Yes, the media world is changing, but ours is too. By keeping up with the evolving landscape and staying ahead of trends, we will ensure media continue to see us as valuable partners in the future.
Maddie Handy is an Account Executive in Edelman’s Calgary office. As a member of the Corporate Services team, she works with clients across a number of sectors including energy, consumer, technology and health services.