How to Be Your Organization’s Top Journalist

by Clem Boyd | Dec 1, 2023 | Public Relations

For those in the media, public relations can seem like a dream. No (apparent) daily deadlines, no bureaucrats to navigate in the search for truth, just pitching your organization’s leader as an expert now and then, offering up a few stories now and again, and then it’s time for 18 holes.

I’ve lived in both worlds. I worked as a newspaper, magazine, and online journalist for the better part of my 38-year career. Yes, daily deadlines can be a challenge. And constantly producing for a newspaper or online outlet can be mentally and emotionally taxing.

In reality, PR is not a path strewn with rose petals and filled with thinking-couch brainstorms (called naps in some quarters). Top-notch PR professionals think and work like journalists.

But what does that look like? Here are a few ideas:

Monitor, monitor, monitor – Near the beginning of my career, I worked for a small daily newspaper where I learned a vitally important lesson—you should always be aware of what’s going on with your beat. One fall day when I arrived at the newsroom, my managing editor rolled up to my desk and asked, “What have you got on the fire?” to which I responded, “What fire?” First lesson: Do not respond to a question from your boss with another question. Better to say, “I’m right on it, boss.”

What I learned from that experience was to start each morning listening to the local news radio station, which would report on fires, car crashes, and other events that I might need to pursue.

In today’s digital world, monitoring still means listening, but in a much broader sense. Tuning in the radio is still a good idea, over air or online; receiving news notifications from websites that cover topics important to your business, ministry, or non-profit; and, my personal favorite, signing up for Google alerts.

If you’ve never done it, try it. Go to Google, type in Google alerts, and you’ll be taken to a page where you can create alerts for the topics that matter in your PR world. Whenever those topics are covered anywhere online, Google will send you a notification with a link. It’s brilliant.

Why go to the trouble of monitoring? One of the biggest opportunities you have to share your organization’s story is the news cycle. If you’re monitoring, you know if the latest news relates to your non-profit, ministry, or business, and you can offer up your leaders as expert commentators, or you can work up stories that link to the story of the moment.

Feed the Beast – Producing is a regular aspect of the journalist’s life. In the business, this is known as “feeding the beast.” You may have turned out several Pulitzer Prize-winning stories yesterday, but the day dawns anew, and more Pulitzers await. The public is never satisfied.

Successful PR has a similar rhythm. Each day you are looking for ways to connect your story with the press. You’re writing press releases, creating news tips, dropping personal emails to writers, editors, and producers, and making phone calls with story suggestions.

You are cooking up ways to get your organization into the headlines. And if you do not do that, you lose ground in the changing world of top-of-mind awareness.

I ran a highly successful media campaign for one of our clients that significantly boosted public awareness and website traffic. Until the campaign ended. Unless you are continually priming the pump, it is easy to be forgotten, which will have a downstream effect on everything else you are trying to do as an organization.

Maintain the Relationship – As a beat reporter, part of my job was to rifle through the daily filings of civil lawsuits and grand jury indictments at the county courthouse. I was looking for the latest juicy item that might make a good front-page article. And since I was in the clerk of courts office, I took time to get to know the clerk of courts and all of his staff. I did the same at the local police department and sheriff’s office.

You cannot let relationships grow stale as a reporter—they are often the source of your best stories.

As a PR person, you are in a similar spot, but instead of a source, you are always developing your relationship with the press. Can you stop and be friendly or make a personal comment as you interact with them? Take the time to sincerely cultivate those kinds of connections, and you’ll have a strong basis for casually dropping a story idea and seeing if there’s interest.

As you continually engage your PR job as a top journalist, you will find your organization spending more and more time in the headlines, “above the fold,” as we used to say in the day. And that’s a place where positive attention generates support that leads to success.

With a relentless storytelling approach, Infinity Concepts can help your organization stay above the fold in an always-changing news cycle.

CLICK HERE or call us today at 724-733-1200.

Clem Boyd
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