Using Breaking News to Break Into the Media

Close-up of a businesswoman talking on a cordless phone HorizontalBreaking news is news in the truest sense of the word — from “hard” news about national and world events, politics or major scientific breakthroughs, to entertainment news about celebrities or sports stars. Breaking news is what drives the media; and tying your pitches to breaking news is a great way to grab the media’s attention for you or your client.

What’s great about breaking news is that it answers the “Why now?” question for the media and increases your chances to share your or your client’s insights, commentary or expert opinion. Breaking news also answers the “Why should I care?” question for media. In news meetings, editors and producers constantly ask their reporters to answer one question from the point of view of the reader, viewer or listener: “Why should I care?” As an expert or publicist, you’re there to serve the media and help them media answer that question. After you pitch, be prepared to jump when the media calls. The earlier you can get involved with the story, the greater your impact in the conversation and the greater your chance to be part of the follow-up.

Here are some key things to remember when preparing:

1) Give the media your cell phone or other numbers where they can contact you 24/7. When they call, pick up. If you can’t pick up, call back ASAP!

2) For TV interviews, you or your client often must be available to fly or travel on short notice. The travel may be local or you may have to fly across the country. Be prepared for spur-of-the-moment schedule changes and be ready to make travel arrangements before you pitch.

3) Print and radio interviews can often be done by phone. Make sure the most reliable landline is used and that all sound bites are practiced and prepared in advance.

4) Provide a link to your or your client’s online press kit so the interviewer can prepare and familiarize themselves with your expertise. Online press kits are one of the most convenient and useful resources for print, broadcast and online media.

5) Expect to be thrown a curve. You can ask the media for a list of questions they plan to ask, but be prepared for spontaneous questions too. This is where media training ahead of time can be very valuable, because there is little time to train once you get the call.

6) Think like a journalist. The more you watch, listen to and read the news, the more you can anticipate and prepare to comment when news breaks.

A lot of this may seem like common sense. But when it comes to PR, it’s usually the smallest things that determine whether or not you land that placement. So being prepared and making sure you’re on top of all the details will do nothing but increase your chances of shining when news breaks.

L. Drew Gerber is CEO of www.PublicityResults.com and creator of www.PitchRate.com, a free media tool that connects journalists and the highest rated experts. Gerber’s business practices and staffing innovations have been revered by PR Week, Good Morning America and the Christian Science Monitor. His companies handle international PR campaigns and his staff develops online press kits for authors, speakers and companies with Online PressKit 24/7, a technology he developed (www.PressKit247.com). You can reach AskDrew [at] PublicityResults [dot] com

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