NASDAQ Paper: ‘What Do Journalists Want?’

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By Patrick Coffee Comment

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Last week NASDAQ‘s Corporate Solutions group and Ragan Communications published a white paper titled “What Journalists Want” that outlines general trends in PR/writer relations.

Much of the paper concerns points that seem basic but may be easily forgotten: maintain and regularly update your contact list, pitch infographics whenever possible, include embed codes with all videos, send mobile-friendly content, etc.

Professors and scribes offer always-relevant advice like “send useful materials to writers even if it doesn’t concern your client” (an idea we support 115%) and “be specific and direct with email subject lines, using the word ‘you’ to directly address the recipient.”

These are all useful tips, but they’re also familiar to most veterans of the media relations practice.

On that note, we spoke to Mike Piispanen, VP of PR solutions at NASDAQ OMX, to get some additional thoughts on the paper.

Who is the target audience for the paper?

We created this guide to help PR and Corporate Communications professionals improve their relationships with the media and be better partners. We have clients around the world that look to us not just for PR technology but also education, and it was important to include viewpoints from journalists and use cases from a number of countries in the guide.

What do you believe to be its most significant finding?

The theme that keeps coming up when we talk to journalists is “be human”. It sounds obvious but so often we fall into a trap of using technology to blast out messages and focus on aggregate figures like follower count or how many outlets a press release reached.

It’s easy to forget there is a human being reading that message and it always comes down to a 1-to-1 interaction with a journalist, even if that happens 10,000 times through a broadcast distribution.

What’s the most common mistake made in media relations?

We recently hosted a “What Journalists Want” webinar featuring a panel discussion inspired by the guide and Mark Jones at Reuters said journalists’ number one complaint is an enticing pitch with a lack of follow through.

When a reporter gets approval from his or her editor to pursue a story and then can’t get access for an interview or background info, it’s a reputation killer for that PR person.

We find that pitches work best when they create a story around the client rather than asking journalists “please feature my client.” Could you elaborate on how PRs can do that? 

The first step is to spend time doing your research on the journalist. “Research” always sounds laborious, but with social media you can learn a lot about someone—their interests, which stories they’re covering—in a few minutes. It will help you tell the right story at the right time.

It also reminds me of a quote we reference in the guide from Sree Sreenivasan, a Columbia University professor of digital media, who says “Don’t always be the asker.” Think of ways you can help a reporter that aren’t self-serving. That’s a human thing to do, and that’s how you build a relationship.

How do you think the increasingly lopsided PR-to-journalists ratio will affect media relations in the future?

The trend of newsrooms becoming smaller certainly places a premium on being concise and timely, and those PR folks who can understand what journalists want—and put themselves in their counterpart’s shoes—will be more successful.

We’re also seeing more journalists take positions within corporations, and adding that perspective and experience can only help companies improve relationship building with members of the media.

Here are our two cents: while journalists don’t want you to write their stories for them, they do appreciate a basic outline of a prospective story. It’s obvious but worth repeating that a press release on its own is very rarely a story–especially if it concerns a consumer product. If, for example, your job is to promote a client’s ongoing launch, explain as quickly and succinctly as possible how the product fits into a current trend.

This is particularly relevant when pitching bloggers, who really do appreciate a straightforward explanation of the piece you’re proposing.

What do we think? What does this new paper have to offer newbies and those with a bit more media relations experience under their belts?

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