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As an executive, you may not realize that a simple ‘we did this’ story isn’t interesting to journalists and therefore may not get media attention. Pitching “hard news” beats like business and finance can be more challenging for brands than softer news angles.

Jeff Jones, Energy and Finance Reporter at The Globe and Mail, recently shared what he requires from PR pitches. “I don’t want excitement. I want clarity and context. I can come up with my own excitement.”

Whether you’re sharing your news via pitch or news release, Jones prefers the content be tight, informative and clear. “Tell the truth, and don’t put a bunch of smart-sounding buzzwords in,” he said. “Tell me what I need to know, and why I need to know it.”

Jones added helpful tips on navigating the business media landscape.


Be relevant

What ultimately makes a business story interesting?  “It’s never the same thing,” said Jones. “It has to be topical, but topical changes. Right now, topical has to do with oil prices, employment, the housing bubble and U.S. politics. These are all things that get editors and reporters antennae up. These are the things that we’re writing about.” Making your story fit the mold of these topics will not always work, but it’s certainly worth the effort.

Another important element is uniqueness. Not only does a story idea have to be the same as everything else, it also has to be different. “If it has some unusual twist to it, that makes it a good story too,” said Jones.


It’s about personality

A story is going to get better traction if there are strong personalities involved. That can be a tricky thing to pitch, but it’s important to be aware of what journalists are looking for. “Let’s say there is a takeover deal in the oil patch. Even if it isn’t a really large takeover deal, if it’s not going smoothly – there are some activist investors who are trying to disrupt the process, for instance — that makes a good story, especially if there’s a personality clash. Personalities play a big role. Interesting personalities get real estate in the newspaper,” Jones stressed.

“We’re always looking for the human story behind a big story — not necessarily the executive behind the deal, but about the people who are most affected by what happens.” For example, reporters have written about the devastation in Fort McMurray caused by the wild fires, and the personal costs to people who were already struggling with the energy-industry downturn.


News releases are still useful

While reporters rely a great deal on their own contacts and sources, news releases are still very useful to them. If you choose to send a news release, be sure to keep it brief. “When you get news releases that over-explain things, it makes you question their veracity. The truth is easy to explain,” said Jones. It’s also important to minimize your use of jargon in a release. “People speak differently to their business colleagues than journalists speak to each other.” According to Jones, there will always be this “propensity for journalists to fight back against jargon and faddish buzzwords.”


Consider digital implications

The Internet era has undoubtedly changed the way reporters cover the news. Business writers are focusing a lot less on the stories where “Company A did X action.” “What we focus a lot more on is trying to find context for things, and determine what the risk might be to investors or consumers,” said Jones.


Create a relationship before you have a story to tell

Relationships really matter to journalists.  “I think it’s really important for PR professionals to build some kind of relationship with journalists when there isn’t something to sell, so they know what our beat is and what we’re interested in,” he stressed. “Then there won’t be a lot of wasted effort in pitching something I would never do.”

Your story may still be a good one, but you have to know which journalist to pitch it to. “Cold calling doesn’t work terribly well,” said Jones. And unfortunately, “the relationship-building exercise has become a dying art.”

About Laurie Smith

Laurie Smith is VP, Customer Marketing at Cision. Follow her @LaurieSmith

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