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Help Your Utility Land Media Coverage Befriend a Journalist Today

image credit: Photo 52266098 © Joe Sohm | Dreamstime.com
Andy Gotlieb's picture
Editor of a specialty publication, former public relations practitioner Freelancer

I hold 34 years of experience in communications, mostly in journalism, with a decade in public relations, too.  The first 17 years were spent in print journalism, where I covered, at various...

  • Member since 2016
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  • Mar 10, 2021
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In the 1983 film “Mr. Mom,” Michael Keaton becomes a stay-at-home dad while wife Teri Garr becomes the family breadwinner.

The movie focuses on Keaton being a fish out of water as it relates to parenting. In one classic scene, Keaton drives to school to pick up his children, but pulls his car the wrong way into the pickup line. That sets off a chorus of people shouting “You’re doing it wrong!” to a flummoxed Keaton.

Well, this may be a roundabout entry into this topic, but when it comes to working with the media, many public relations departments are “doing it wrong.” So, here are some suggestions that will curry you and your utility favor with the press (and don’t think an annoyed journalist won’t shut you out).

Don’t go “venue shopping.” That means don’t pester every person at the media organization if the person most likely to cover you declines to do so. I’ve gotten calls from PR people, rejected their idea, then listened to them call the person next to me two minutes later with the same pitch.

Respect deadlines. Don’t pitch journalists when their work is due. That usually means later afternoon. And don’t try on Friday afternoons – reporters have lives, too, and are trying to get done and go home.

Pitch the right person. For example, don’t call the sports department if you have a business story to offer.

Offer something of value. Your pitch must offer value of some sort to the outlet’s readers/viewers/listeners – generally important information. Avoid puffery at all costs.

Don’t mention competing media outlets as a way to gain leverage. Journalists hate being played off each other.

Don’t make contact too often. If you call too much, you become the boy who cried wolf and tend to be ignored.

Be prepared. Reporters are trained to ask questions – lots of them. If you don’t know the answers, to basic things, they will lose interest.

Unless it’s radio, have plenty of visual ideas. Newspapers and TV like stories that can be easily illustrated. Want to pitch, say, your vegetation management program? Provide before/after photos of some of your work.

Be a friend. If you develop good relationships with a journalist, they’re liable to be more helpful in the future. Don’t argue or complain when an idea is rejected. Be grateful when you do get coverage. And follow these rules!

Andy Gotlieb's picture
Thank Andy for the Post!
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