As a journalist, my inbox used to be tightly packed with emails. I would sort through emails from public relations executives in the latest “Grand Opening of [insert name] Grocery Store” or “Local Representative Announces [insert topic] at [insert local school].” A quarter of my time was spent digging through emails to find he most relevant for our readers.
Time is valuable for a reporter. Only so much can be covered and written. Story ideas and leads fall through the cracks. How do you get your name, email and event on top of the pile?
Looking back, I used information from a handful of dependable PR people for many stories. Certain names and email addresses stood out to me from the field.
How can you set yourself apart from others jockeying for the eye of a local journalist? Follow these four tips.
Some communication staff would send a message the day of an event. Unless it was something pressing—and most of the time, it was not—then I would let it fall off the wayside.
On the other end of the spectrum, some would send out event notifications about a month in advance but fail to send a reminder the week of the event.
For example, there was a school that sent a massive news release about an event—quite an impressive one, I might add—and they did not send out any reminders the weeks and days before. As a result, I missed it. Call it poor planning on my part, but the PR person did not do their job since their intended target, a journalist, did not cover the story.
Send a reporter or person of interest an email two weeks before the event, and then send another the week of the story. If the event is on a Monday, make sure you send it on a Friday.
Who does not like the sound of their name? An email addressed specifically to you will stand out from the 25 others that were sent en masse.
There were only four PR people in my city that would address emails specifically to me. Yes, it would be the exact copy as sent to other news outlets, but the person did take the extra four seconds to type out M-a-t-t.
A guy in town who works for a large government agency would address emails to me, and further, he would give me a phone call. This went a long way.
Take the extra couple of seconds to let the journalist know that they’re not just another email.
Know your audience. Draft a message in a way they’re used to writing, and more importantly, in the style can easily use. When writing to journalists, write in their native Associated Press Style.
If you don’t have time to get a degree in journalism or take a course to learn AP, then just include these three things:
1) Lose the Oxford Comma in a series.
2) Numbers one through nine are spelled out. Anything greater uses the numeral (10, 35, 893, etc.).
3) Abbreviate months when talking about a specific date. For example, Jan. 15; Feb. 21; Dec. 25. Be advised: some months don’t need this (March, April, May, June, July).
Journalists have a lot of people vying for their attention. If you want to stand out among the crowd, a little intentionality can go a long way.
Matt Pulford worked in journalism before he became the Director of Content at Roundtree. He is still opposed to the Oxford comma.