To those outside the media, reporters can seem like strange beings. They’re often skeptical, come off as blunt (or borderline rude), may forget to return emails, seem perpetually stressed and regularly ask questions about things other than your business.
As a former journalist, I can attest to the fact that reporters really are strange beings. That said, they have legitimate reasons.
Why Reporters Act The Way They Do
Journalists may appear eccentric, but they aren’t inherently rude or anxiety-ridden creatures. They’re actually quite engaging, inquisitive and enjoy a well-timed joke. This perceived media madness is spurred by their rigorous schedules and increasing demands. And to take your media relations game to the next level, it’s vital to understand why.
- Reporters are busy. You’re probably thinking, “Hey, who isn’t?” But thanks to changes in the media over the past 15 years, reporters are the poster children for “having to do more with less.” Some reporters must cover multiple beats, or areas of coverage, for their outlets, while also finding photos, shooting videos or creating graphics to accompany their stories. This constant juggling may cause them to come off as blunt or rude. But don’t take it personally. They’re probably just dwelling on the hundred other things they need to get done before lunch.
- Deadline demands. Everyone has demands on their time. But few professionals face the constant onslaught of deadlines that reporters do. They constantly are under pressure to deliver high-quality stories and content to drive readership, clicks and myriad other — sometimes contradictory — metrics to justify their salary and job. It’s a relentless cycle with few breaks. After all, there’s always another paper, broadcast, podcast or email to prepare.
- Email overload. Reporters receive dozens — sometimes hundreds — of emails filled with countless pitches, story ideas and requests every day. This email overload means journalists must regularly sift through their inbox to mine the gold nuggets that are worth their limited time. To lessen the chances of your pitch getting tossed with the fool’s gold, ensure it falls somewhere in the newsworthy sweet spot.
- May be inexperienced. Since the Great Recession, the media industry has shed reporters like a dog sheds hair. This has resulted in fewer seasoned journalists in American newsrooms. To make up for this, media outlets have turned to less experienced reporters, interns and even students to report the news and generate content. For a spokesperson, this means it’s much more likely the journalist interviewing you is a student or intern. That doesn’t mean they aren’t professional or don’t know what they’re doing. But it may mean they ask certain questions that require more background about your industry than you expect. If so, take the opportunity to showcase your industry expertise and knowledge. And, please, don’t insult the poor kids.
- May be unprepared. With so many demands on their day, reporters often don’t have the time to adequately prep prior to an interview. Again, this isn’t intended as a slight or insult. It’s the nature of life in journalism. Take the opportunity to flex your expertise and educate the reporter on your industry and topic at hand. Doing so in a kind, helpful fashion goes a long way toward becoming a go-to source for future stories.
Reporters Are People, Too
To media outsiders, the things reporters say and do can seem alien. But once you learn about the climate in which they live and work to accomplish their jobs, those quirks quickly become understandable.
Ultimately, reporters are people, too. Like all professionals, they face numerous pressures, demands and responsibilities all while trying to do their best.
Now that you understand the media madness, you can break through it by doing your best to make journalists’ lives easier with actions like responding quickly when they reach out and anticipating their needs by including relevant expertise, reports, data or supplemental sources with your story idea.
Ready to gain an even deeper understanding of the media and land more coverage for your business? Let us help you take your media relations to the next level to grow your brand and reach the right audiences.