Faith Peppers is in charge of media relations for The College of Agricultural Science at the University. She was a reporter and public information officer at Journal Constitution before going into PR, so she is knowledgeable about sides of the media.
Communication is expensive, there are limited opportunities, short attention spans and competing messages. Agriculture is the largest industry in the state, but there is not one reporter in the whole state who only covers agriculture -- communication can be difficult.
"News isn't entertainment, it is a necessity," Faith Peppers said. Media can offer awareness and education, advocacy, positioning and accountability, and it is proof of what you have accomplished.
So what is news, according to Peppers? Crisis, catastrophe, change, etc.
Also, news is timely, affects many people, is innovative and is interesting. Reporters and PR professionals have to look for the one little piece of information, or one new angle, that wasn't there before. However, Peppers said that when it comes down to it news is what journalists decide is news.
Journalists are short on time, not necessarily your friend, smarter than you think but also are less knowledgeable. It is important to be cautious when working with reporters and not assume they are on your side. Also, journalists want a good story with as many elements as possible, good quotes and want to feel like they understand. It is crucial for PR professionals to understand what journalists want and be able to deliver just that.
The truth always is necessary. "You only have one reputation, but if you ever lose your reputation with the media ... you are toast," Peppers said. Doing anything you can to maintain your reputation is crucial.
So, how do you get in the news?
You can write a news release, but this isn't always the most effective. Pitches are more successful -- call a reporter and give them an idea and an angle. Reporter queries are common. PR professionals often help journalists with information without getting quoted in an article. Periodicals are informative and help reporters receive information.
So take aim -- look for specific reporters, read their stories, look for a series and ... don't miss the obvious! But don't be afraid to shoot low. Hit weekly newspapers and small dailies. Look for local direct mail publications, local media and small publications. Don't underestimate these media outlets because people actually do pay attention to them.
"Feed the beast," Peppers suggests. Give tips, give reporters what they need, and never let a reporter leave without a story idea. However, "don't chase rabbits," she said. Everyone wants to get into major newspapers such as the New York Times, but this isn't always possible. Find the best means of communication for each specific situation.