50 ideas for grabbing the media’s attention: Steal story ideas from reporters [PART 5]

This is part five of a seven-part series on earning the media’s attention and getting the coverage you want. Here are parts one, two, three and four in case you missed them.

Probably the toughest part of earning good coverage is predicting what story topics your targeted media outlets are actually interested. In a perfect world it would be simple — you’d get your story ideas from reporters, editors and producers themselves and then tailor your pitches to match those ideas.

Stealing story ideas for publicity is OK.

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We don’t live in a perfect world, but you can find out exactly what kinds of subjects and story ideas many news outlets and journalists are interested in — while they’re still looking for sources. Easy, right? Well, you’re still going to have to work at getting the coverage, but the six techniques below should give you a head start.

1. Nominate individuals (and your company) for lists and rankings published by the media. There are lots of possibilities. A few examples:

  • Weekly business journal lists and awards – 40 Under 40, Women in Business, industry rankings and more.
  • State business magazine rankings, such as top lawyer or top doctor.
  • National lists in your industry trade publications, or national business lists like Inc.’s Inc. 500 ranking.
  • Local weeklies’ lists of best pizza place, gym or whatever. These sometimes are determined by popular vote, but you can campaign for your business.

2. Get publication editorial calendars. Not all publications have them, but business publications and trade publications often do. You can pitch editors and reporters based on the topics outlined on their editorial calendars. Among outlets that have them, most editorial calendars are published in the fourth quarter or early first quarter. They can usually be downloaded from the website or obtained by calling the advertising sales department. It’s important to find out what publication deadlines are so you know when to pitch ideas for these issues, so make sure you know your target media[link to first post in series]. Also note that some publications will change their editorial calendars over the course of the year, so it’s useful to check in from time to time and see if there have been any updates.

3. Subscribe to HARO and (if you can afford it) Profnet. Both services send multiple daily emails filled with reporters’ requests for sources on various topics. It only takes a few minutes a day to scan these emails and respond to relevant story ideas. It’s important to follow the rules of these services and not use them to harvest reporter email addresses or spam them with irrelevant pitches. That will earn you the enmity of journalists and may get you banned from receiving these emails. Both services also have Twitter accounts where they post urgent media queries – @helpareporterout and @profnet.

4. Take local stories and make them national. You can take interesting stories happening in your local market, add a pinch of commentary and sprinkle on some national statistics and then pitch them to national media. The key is to find local stories that are part of a national trend.

5. Take national stories and make them local. You can also take an interesting national story, such as a piece that’s appeared in a high-profile national outlet such as USA Today or on CNN, and localize it. By doing a little footwork to come up with local examples of the trend, you can package up a story that local reporters may find very attractive. Here again the key is to have some perspective or analysis of your own to add.

6. Pitch year-in-review perspectives on your industry to key reporters. Many publications already do some form of this story, so be proactive in making yourself available as an expert source and providing data and anecdotes to help flesh out the story.

Have other ways of getting your story ideas directly from news outlets? Please share it in the comments below.

Coming next: Get creative! Sign up for the email list to make sure you don’t miss any of the posts in this seven-part series.

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