Tuesday morning, I attended a panel at the offices of Mintz Levin organized by the Northeast Clean Energy Council called Working with the Press in an Evolving Media Landscape. With clean energy going mainstream and legislators on Beacon Hill and across the country grappling with how to deliver it to consumers in a cost-effective way, there are an increasing number of headlines and news stories on the topic.
The panel was targeted to those organizations dedicated to adoption of clean energy technologies and how they can best work with journalists to tell their story. Here are some top takeaways about how to best work with journalists, who are increasingly asked to file multiple stories during a single day.
Manna from Heaven: The Boston Globe’s Business reporter Jon Chesto encouraged the packed room to “anticipate what a reporter is working on” on a particular day. If your pitch matches up with what the reporter is thinking about, you will very often get a subject matter expert quoted or a key piece of data included in the story. Chesto jokingly referred to these timely emails falling into his lap as “manna from heaven.” Managing Editor Stephen Lacey of Greentech Media estimated that between 20-30 percent of his stories come from direct story pitches.
Make it Exclusive: Before you pitch an exclusive story, consider the audience of a particular outlet and reporter. Will they care more about the big news more than the audience of another publication or station? And it should be BIG: Reporters aren’t interested in an embargoed press release as an exclusive if it’s going to multiple outlets. In fact, Lacey expects the offer of an exclusive to include news that is “ground-breaking, newsworthy and game-changing.” Gin Dumcius of Masslive.com added that, if you do give an exclusive to one outlet, be prepared to hand over the same source material to multiple outlets when they start calling soon after the exclusive appears in a competing outlet.
Keep it Social: Don’t just follow your favorite reporters on Twitter—pitch them there too. Sara Castellanos, Technology Editor of the Boston Business Journal, appreciates story pitches on her feed. She doesn’t see a lot of them there, so it’s one way to make your idea stand out. Chesto told the crowd he’s on Twitter between 15 and 40 times a day. Lacey of Greentech Media sang the praises of the lesser-known social media channel Medium. He complimented it as a “very simple clean publishing tool” that taps into your built-in twitter and Facebook audience to get views for your blogs. Yet another way to tell your story.
Stay Persistent: You’ve heard it before: Journalists are busier than they have ever been. Still, if they’re not interested in a pitch, many will tell you just that. So if you don’t get a response on the initial pitch, it’s more than OK to send it again or to pick up the phone. Just remember: The clock is constantly ticking for reporters, many of whom are on multiple daily deadlines. Chesto, an avid, runner compared each day to a “sprint to the wire.”
Thanks to the Northeast Clean Energy Council for an informative conversation!