By Ken Hunter, APR
President, Chief Strategist, The PowerStation Communications
PRSA NJ Director & Membership Chair
Donald Trump has been the “gift that keeps giving” for journalists, as seen by a raft of media coverage throughout the campaign. At the time of the annual PRSA NJ “Meet the Media” event this past April, the LexisNexis Presidential Campaign Tracker showed that Trump generated 100,000 articles per day, dwarfing the next closest candidate at the time, Bernie Sanders, at 11,000 articles per day.
The Campaign Tracker also measures the sentiment of articles about candidates, by political party. Of all the articles at the time of the Meet the Media panel, 8.6 percent of the pieces about Democrat candidates had negative sentiment, yet for Republicans climbed to 14 percent. Positive article sentiment was 15 percent for Democrat candidates at that time, and 10.3 percent for Republicans.
Knowing these statistics, journalists at Meet the Media were asked how these trends are likely to react throughout the campaign. The consensus: Trump is doing what journalists crave from public relations efforts, notably being accessible and providing compelling, unique content that solicits responses in their readers and viewers.
For public relations professionals, these are attributes that can guide many activities in establishing connections with target audiences, however the eternal challenge for those working with media is, “How can I get reporters interested in my content?”
Answering these questions for one of PRSA NJ’s largest audiences of the year – more than 100 attendees – were Meet the Media’s panelists:
- Gema de las Heras, Consumer Producer for show A Tu Lado, Univision WXTV-41 New York
- David Levitt, Commercial Real Estate Reporter, Bloomberg Business News
- Josh Cornfield, New Jersey News Editor, Associated Press
- Tom Bergeron, Editor, NJBIZ Magazine
- Walt Kane, Investigative Reporter, News 12 New Jersey
Their tips included:
- Be available and, in particular, helpful; and also have a spokesperson that speaks Spanish, Univision’s de las Heras said. About 90 percent of her unit’s stories come from their viewer tip line, she noted, emphasizing that route as a possible way in the door.
- Levitt of Bloomberg implored PR pros to create relationships over the phone, and work with reporters to develop unique angles to make distinctive stories. He is “totally agnostic” as to where his story leads come from – such as emailed pitches, news releases, calls, other media coverage, etc. – as he wants provocative news, scoops as many journalists seek, and unique angles to stories that have already broke.
- Steer away from the corporatespeak, focus on real-world uses of your information, and – whenever possible – use a “tell it to mom” approach, said NJBiz’s Bergeron, where you are summarizing an idea in a way you might explain it to a non-industry insider, such as your mother.
- If you don’t already, spend a little time researching which reporter covers what beat, and more importantly, what types of stories they are covering, noted AP’s Cornfield. Call to follow-up on your pitch only if that call will be really useful in providing unique information or timely updates.
- Pitching a story well is the key to gaining coverage on News 12, said Kane. His investigative team gets about 600 calls and emails per week, and his stories usually take some time to develop. He does three pieces per week, so consider the odds when assessing the strength of your angle. On weekends, the competition for coverage across all of News 12 New Jersey is even fiercer, with only four video crews on duty, and the ability to cover perhaps a story or two per crew. Kane said to ask yourself if your story should realistically be in that group. If so, then pitch it.
The panel – held April 5, 2016, at Rutgers University, was moderated by Ken Hunter, APR, PRSA New Jersey Membership Chair, and President of PowerStation | Communications. Co-hosts of the event were the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Rutgers University Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America.
Ken Hunter, APR, is Membership Chair of PRSA New Jersey, and President of PowerStation | Communications. He can be reached at khunter@PowerStationComms.com, or 908-295-8946.