Three recent stories sum up a lot about what’s going on with the media.

  • On the day of the no-confidence vote in Boris Johnson, The Sun did nine stories about it, compared with 59 about Love Island.
  • A reporter who wrote about helping a stranger in a high-profile tragedy found their article got the same amount of online traffic as the opening of a donut shop.
  • One of the UK’s biggest publishers is asking its regional journalists to increase online page views on their stories by 70% by the end of this year, with targets up to 850,000 per month.

We’re in daily contact with senior journalists and editors, and we attend events where they share the latest news about what’s going on in the industry. Here are five lessons that everyone with an interest in gaining coverage should consider carefully.

Lesson 1: like it or not, online rules the roost

Clickbait works. It helps to keep newspapers afloat, and their staff. A journalist could earn £000s more based on how many people looked at an article or took a subscription on the back of one.

For many journalists, if a story won’t make an impact online then there’s probably no point in them even thinking about it, even if it’s genuinely news.

News websites used to be a sample of the stories for print. It’s the other way now for some titles – the newspaper is a curated collection of the online articles.

Timings are fluid. Stories can go straight online instead of being held and often are. Asking ‘what’s the deadline?’ is increasingly redundant.

Understand how to use Google Trends and SEO insights to inform content.

Lesson 2: if you want advertising, then advertise; if you want coverage, then earn it

Journalists don’t owe you anything. Read/watch/listen to their work. Learn what matters to them. Build a relationship. (That early career reporter you dismissed as irrelevant could be your number one target in a few years.)

Sending a news release to everyone is increasingly just spam. Some outlets just won’t cover you if the story has been covered elsewhere. Go for quality exclusives not quantity. Less can be more! Develop a pitch – not a news release.

Some media sectors are up (e.g. tech) and others are down (e.g. local). Do you know how to prepare and pitch accordingly?

For some titles it’s all about churn. They want bite-sized articles and lots of them.

News releases that read like marketing flyers or corporate brochures are a huge turn-off.  (“The world’s leading tech innovator Goople today announces a new and improved state-of-the-art strategic solution for sorting paperclips.”) Yawn!

Lesson 3: making journalists’ lives easier goes a long way

Journalists are time-poor. One senior reporter at a major newspaper recently told us they have to do everything from deputising for the editor to cropping their own photos.

Good quality landscape photos are a must, but outlets have different styles and preferences, so you have to take that into account when commissioning or sending pictures.

Many need content that’s easy to work with as well as interesting to their audience. There’s no time for a proper rewrite. Provide well-written copy that can be lifted from a news release.

Timing is everything. Know when to send or sell-in your story.

Broadcasters in particular need something that moves to film or interesting sounds to record, and good speakers. But print media often do video and audio too.

Lesson 4: journalists are people too

Journalists can be under pressure to make themselves more prominent but also have to be careful because of bullying, intimidation and abuse. Real or perceived, the threats are very harmful either way.

Many of them are not very well paid, have to work awful hours, and are expected to produce more content for more channels against ever-tighter deadlines.

Journalists are swamped with emails. You have around three seconds to establish the direct relevance of your content, otherwise it’s probably headed for the bin.

Lesson 5: the media was never just about print and that’s even truer now

Learn how to use LinkedIn properly because it can be a good source of content for B2B media.

Newsletters are well-read products that reach captive audiences. Find out what your preferred title likes in its newsletter stories.

Podcasts are doing very well just now. But it’s all about personalities and having something interesting to say. Don’t even think about it if you can’t stand out from the crowd.

If doing all this seems like a tall order…

Our media relations results speak for themselves and we’d only be too happy to tell you about the successes we’ve had for countless clients over the last 20 years.

We can also help to strengthen the capabilities and capacity of your whole team, from giving your top execs practice at delivering their key messages under pressure, to guiding your operational colleagues on the vital role they play in managing the media.

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