How to Think Like a Reporter for Front-Page Worthy Headlines

Early in my career as a public relations professional, I discovered you can't effectively pitch stories to media if you don't understand how their minds operate. How do journalists, bloggers and podcasters decide what is newsworthy and what gets tossed in the trash? The answer to this question is why companies hire us, and Trevelino/Keller’s ability to uncover the answer in an ever-changing media landscape is why we are first in retention among PR firms. Understanding and respecting reporters’ goals could help your next big company announcement wind up on the front page.


It’s not all about you!

When pitching a self-serving story that fails to paint a broad picture, you're missing an opportunity to become a trusted and credible resource. If you want to sell something, call the sales department and pay for an ad.

One of our clients, The College Football Hall of Fame, is going to be at the center of Atlanta’s biggest football year ever this year. Rather than pitch national media a story all about the Hall, we included the building in a broader piece about how all eyes will be on Atlanta this football season. By doing so, we positioned the Hall as an important component of Atlanta’s big year, while providing media with additional sources for a larger story that an editor would approve.


Not just any reporter and or outlet will do.

Keep the reporter's audience, demographic and beat in mind when writing pitches and calling media. To prepare, create an archive of the reporter's last 10 stories, posts or segments. Read their bio page to see what types of stories they are interested in most. For example, I would not send a technology reporter a story about Atlanta’s biggest football year ever; I would, however, share a story idea about the Hall’s new specialty exhibit with virtual reality technology.

Do your homework, and show the media you respect their time and understand their target audience. This will help build a relationship with reporters, which is the ultimate goal of any good PR practitioner.


Ensure your story ideas are always relevant.

A good reporter will ask, "What's new here? Has something happened that we haven't covered yet?” Don’t assume daily business activity is worthy of a story. It is important to provide media with a new stat, trend or fresh angle.

Remember "news” comes from the word "new.” Sharing a tired story angle will diminish your credibility and hurt the relationship you’ve been working so hard to create. Show reporters why your pitch is relevant to their audience today. Most editors and producers will shoot down your ideas in a split second if you aren’t providing them with something fresh.

Bottom line: You often only get one chance to grab a reporter’s attention. Take the time to make media feel like this is the only story in the world for them. Do your homework, know what they cover and what they've written about in the past, and your pitch will land your company or client on the front page of tomorrow’s paper.

Jason Gilbreth is an account supervisor at Trevelino/Keller. He can be found this summer at SunTrust Park eating peanuts and cheering on the Braves.

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