12 Steps to Approach Journalists for the Best Chance of News Coverage

12 Steps to Approach Journalists for the Best Chance of News Coverage

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Gaining press coverage for your law firm can help both the reputation and online presence of your firm. At Conscious, we use a variety of digital PR strategies to gain coverage for our clients, Head of Digital PR Joanna Cunningham discusses four of these in her blog post.

However, with journalists being flooded with stories every day, it’s important that your story stands out from the crowd. In this article, we’ll be providing a checklist for how to approach journalists for the best results.

Three Benefits of Obtaining Media Coverage for Your Law Firm

Before we dive a little deeper into the methods to approach journalists to obtain media exposure, let's round up some of the benefits of gaining coverage for your firm:

  1. Greater visibility and exposure: earning press coverage can make your firm stand out in a highly competitive market, which can ultimately drive business development and growth.
  2. People have trust in your firm: having a strong, highly visible online presence can mean that prospective clients already feel a sense of familiarity and confidence in your legal services.
  3. Cultivates thought leadership for your firm and shows your expertise: being in the public eye can help build credibility, amplify current successes, and can ultimately position your firm as an expert in legal matters.

Types of Digital PR Campaigns

Now you know why news coverage can be an effective tool for your firm, let's take a look at four types of digital PR campaigns you can use to develop a story. The four tried and tested strategies include:

  • Reactive PR Campaigns
  •  Data-Led PR Campaigns
  • Expert commentary
  • Awareness Day Campaigns

Once you’ve familiarised yourself with the different types of digital PR campaigns you can use to gain coverage, the next steps are to focus on the process of coming up with a story and pitch. Below we’ll be discussing the most effective ways to do so.

12 Steps to Approach Journalists for Coverage

1. Tell a new story

With so many news stories and press releases circulating every day, it’s important to come up with something that’s going to really stand out. For that reason, it’s important not to rush the ideation process. Instead, spend a couple of hours researching current trends and brainstorming different angles and campaign ideas.

One way to ensure you’ll never miss an opportunity is by following the news in your specialism. In doing so, you could provide legal commentary on a story, which can help build your firm’s authority and exposure. Or, if you’d rather do something data-led, why not commission a survey to create a new story that no one else would be reporting on?

Below are some questions you should ask yourself before finalising your story:

  • Is this something our audience will engage with?
  • Is this important enough to warrant space in the news?
  • What do we want to accomplish out of it?

2. Send local news stories to local papers

Local news organisations are a good way to reach a specific target audience. However, smaller media groups are often understaffed, meaning journalists may not have the capacity or resources to read many press releases that get sent.

To optimise your chances of success, you should consider researching the kind of stories local papers are covering, as well as their typical audience and tone. The closer your idea is to the type of stories they publish, the more likely you’ll be able to get their attention.

More specifically, it’s a good idea to tailor your pitch to their location. For example, if you’re doing a data-led campaign, pinpoint the data in your dataset that targets that location and send them a specialised press release and breakdown of the stats to their area.

3. Link your story to something currently happening

If there’s something happening in the news, or there’s an upcoming awareness day or current social media trend, use this to springboard your idea.

If used appropriately, awareness days can be a great way to create more noise around an ongoing campaign. For example, National Single Parent Day may fit in nicely with a story on divorce statistics.

However, it is important to be selective and ensure the link to these awareness days is not too tenuous. For instance, World Elevator Day may not be so relevant to your firm and may undermine your brand’s purpose.

To find days that could help boost your reputation and presence, you should consider doing the following:

  • Create an awareness day calendar: this way you can plan your content way ahead of time.
  • Perform a quick Google search: by doing this you can find out which awareness days that receive a lot of publicity
  • Make sure the chosen awareness day aligns with your firm’s values: if not, it runs the risk of coming across as a deceptive publicity stunt which could ultimately damage your company’s reputation.

4. Highlight your firm’s knowledge and expertise

Providing expert comments is a great way to draw in journalists and attract media attention, and it can also help promote your firm as an expert in legal matters.

Whether you’re adding weight and credibility to an ongoing story, or you’ve provided your legal expertise to an impending change in legislation or breaking news article, you’re cultivating your firm as an authority figure.

Ultimately, this can generate more exposure in a highly competitive field and impact business growth. In future, it may even lead the journalist to reach out to you for any upcoming stories.

5. Tailor each email to the specific publication and their audience

When crafting your press release, it’s important to research journalists and publications beforehand so you can effectively tailor your story to their audience.

Personalisation demonstrates to journalists and editors that you’ve taken the time to draft them a message, and that you’ve considered their interests and truly know their audience.

It’s also a proven and highly effective tool in building rapport and loyalty with a journalist, therefore increasing your chances of gaining media coverage.

6. Get the subject line right

After devoting time crafting and perfecting your story, the last thing you’ll want is for your email to remain unopened by a journalist. To maximise your chances of engagement it’s important to have a powerful subject line.

Below, we’ll explore some of the best practices on how to write a punchy subject line that will increase your chance of open rates and coverage:

  • Keep it short and concise: you don’t need to tell the journalist everything in the subject line; they’ll ask if they want to know more. Recent studies have also revealed that, as subject lines get longer, open rates decrease. Instead, aim to keep your subject line under 10 words and be as clear as possible.
  • Consider spam filters: many journalists will filter messages to trash folders with anything that sounds spammy. Try and avoid using salesy or clickbait words and the overuse of emojis.
  • Personalise: relevancy is key with subject lines, as it proves to the recipient that you have considered the interests and know their audience. You could try and incorporate the journalist’s name, as well as any other important details such as the location and the name of the outlet they work for.
  • Deliver a headline:  a common method we use is to deliver a headline in the subject line, for example “Expert reveals five ways…”.

7. Make the story digestible

The key to crafting the perfect story and pitch is by presenting the most relevant information in an easily digestible way. While our instinct is to over-explain and elaborate, doing this will only put off recipients from reading your story.

Journalists receive hundreds of pitches every day, so it’s important to respect their time and stand out by offering an easy-to-read and concise story. You can do this by bullet-pointing and highlighting key points, as well as making use of italics and bold. A good pitch should be something a recipient can scan and comprehend in under a few minutes.

Don’t forget, if a journalist wants to find out more, they will ask you for the details!

8. Check your spelling

Bad grammar, typos and personalisation mistakes are some of the worst offenders when it comes to bad PR pitches.

Luckily, with a little more attention to detail, you can avoid these costly mistakes from being made. Below, is a checklist to ensure your pitch is flawless and ready to hit send.

  • Read your pitch out loud
  • Get a second opinion
  • Step away for a few minutes before rereading
  • Make use of some digital proofreading tools such as Grammarly
  • Double-check the key information you’re pitching

9. Be quick if you’re doing a reactive angle

Seizing an opportunity to react to a current news trend can be a great way to secure wide-reaching coverage and promote your firm’s expertise.

However, with news cycles moving fast and working in a highly competitive industry, it’s important to get your story out there before another firm could seize the opportunity. If done poorly, your firm could waste precious time and resources, as well as raking in little chance of success.

10. Follow up

Follow ups for PR are not quite the same as a generic email follow up for anyone else. The likelihood is, they saw it and just weren’t interested.

So, rather than sending an email asking if they’ve received your pitch, send them a new angle as if it’s a brand-new story.

For instance, you can use the same press release but change your approach. Think about offering something new or exclusive that wasn’t included in your original pitch. Changing the subject line to showcase a different angle can be a great way of catching a journalist’s attention.

11. Update your contact lists regularly

Building and updating your media list regularly is a must for gaining press coverage. Compiling a list can mean that you’re targeting relevant journalists and reaching different target audiences.

When creating these lists, think about the different audiences and outlets that align with the type of stories you’re crafting. Is there a specific sector or location that you want to gain reach in? If so, why not make separate contact lists for different themes and industries you want to pitch to?

Using online media databases like Roxhill can provide quick and easy access to journalists. It’s also a place you can configure relevant lists, helping you stay on track with journalists’ moves.

12. Be realistic with your expectations

Developing a story and pitching can be hard work, and requires dedication, creativity and patience. Recent surveys have found that only 1 in 65 pitches receive coverage.

It’s imperative to understand that digital PR is cumulative and is not a quick way of scoring instant placements. It’s going to take a while for your stories and pitches to attain coverage and reach your target audience.

Is Your Law Firm Ready to Start its Digital PR Journey?

As you can see, there are plenty of exciting ways to drive press coverage for your law firm, but it’s important to remember that this requires determination and patience.

Thinking outside the box and staying relevant is vital for a good story, and personalisation and conciseness are a must when pitching to journalists.

While digital PR is not an easy way of scoring instant coverage or reach to your target audience, in the long term it can provide wide-reaching exposure and visibility. This can ultimately position your firm as an expert in legal matters, and drive business development and growth in a highly competitive industry.

Think you want to try some of these campaigns, but aren’t sure where to begin? Get in contact with us by emailing sales@conscious.co.uk or calling 0117 325 0200 for more information.