If you want to successfully pitch news stories, you need to think – and write – like a news reporter.

That’s one of the strategies I’ve used during my 30+ year career in public relations to place countless stories. And reading some of the news stories coming out of the current Olympic Games in Tokyo reinforces three other basic principles I teach in my News Writing workshops for PR professionals:

The Power of “ST” – If you can find a word that ends in the letters “s” and “t” and apply it to your story pitch, you have a much better chance of success. Case in point: my local newspaper The Oregonian ran a large wire story July 28 about a 17-year-old high school student from a tiny town in Alaska. Why did she merit such attention? Because Lydia Jacoby was the first swimmer from Alaska to make the U.S. Olympic swimming team. To top it off, she won the gold medal in the 100-meter breaststroke event. You can read more about this strategy here.

Most Attractive Topic – The topic most people want to read about in their news coverage is … other people! The story cited above about the swimmer includes information about her childhood, how difficult it was to train in a small town during a pandemic, how her parents both work as whale watching boat captains, how she was homeschooled the past year and how her friends and family members “went nuts” at the watch party when she won. If you’ve got a people element to your story, don’t forget to include it. You can read more about this strategy here.

Think Local – Reporters usually seek local stories that have a tie to a national or international event. Case in point: my 97-year-old mom is currently visiting me from her home in Victoria, Canada. She brought a copy of her local paper, The Times Colonist, with her. The July 20 edition includes a large story about a University of Victoria graduate who was picked to help carry the Canadian flag during the opening ceremony in Tokyo. If you can somehow connect your pitch to a big news story, the result will be a placement. You can read more about this strategy here.

I’ve always believed that if you can provide an editor with a newsworthy story that would interest their readers, your pitch will win a proverbial gold medal. Using the above strategies will help you get there.

Want to improve your team’s news or business writing skills? Get in touch with me for information about scheduling and rates.

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You’ve interviewed multiple sources for that news release, speech or internal communications newsletter article. After you write a great draft, you send it out to your reviewers for approval.

And you wait…

And you wait…

You send out a reminder email. And you wait…

And your deadline starts getting closer…

What should you do? It’s a common problem that faces every communicator who’s ever put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).

For a recent workshop I presented to a client, I came up with 10 tips for breaking through the approval process log jam. Here are three of them:

  1. Give approvers a realistic deadline for getting back to you — Communicators are used to working on deadline but we should remember not everyone has our sense of urgency. Your failure to give an approver enough time to give you their feedback is your fault, not theirs. Unless you’re dealing with a crisis and need to send out an immediate communication, I recommend giving an approver at least a week to provide you their comments.
  2. Verify the approver will be available to review your copy — People take time off work for a variety of planned and unexpected reasons, including parental leave, sick leave, vacation, weddings, honeymoons, surgical procedures and funerals. When you interview a source, be sure to verify they will be available in the near future to review your draft. They might not think ahead and let you know they will be out of the office for two weeks, which could cause you a problem.
  3. If the approver has an assistant, c.c. them on your email(s) — Looping in the approver’s assistant can pay big dividends. If you need to ask the assistant’s help in reaching the approver, they will already know what it’s regarding and how soon you need a response. The assistant can also potentially warn you if the supervisor will be unavailable and when they’ll be back in the office.

Based on my more than 40 years of experience working in journalism and corporate communications, I’ve developed seven more tips for breaking through the approval process log jam. Want to learn more? Contact me for information about my workshop rates and availability.

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Transparency a key factor in high impact internal comms

April 20, 2021

A new client recently asked me to present a virtual workshop on internal communications to its comms team. In preparing my presentation, I came up with five characteristics of what I believe constitute a high impact (high quality) internal communications program. I was delighted to read the new issue of American Banker magazine (April 2021), […]

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Capt. Tom’s lesson: your most valuable possession is not fortune, fame

February 4, 2021

The death of beloved Capt. Tom Moore on Feb. 2 at the age of 100 reminds us that our most valuable possession is not fortune or fame. If you’re not familiar with Capt. Tom, last year this World War II vet and British resident set out to raise 1,000 pounds for the healthcare workers in […]

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Churchill said it best: Make it brief!

December 31, 2020

I’m reading the latest book by one of my favorite authors, Erik Larson. In The Splendid and the Vile, Larson recounts the many challenges Winston Churchill faced as prime minister of the United Kingdom during World War II. Germany had already conquered Poland and Czechoslovakia. On Churchill’s very first day in office, Germany invaded Holland […]

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Lessons to be learned from the recent presidential election

November 8, 2020

Regardless of your political affiliation, the recent presidential election holds some major lessons when it comes to news writing and media pitching. Here are just four of them: Timing – The news media usually does not plan ahead. It typically reports on the daily activities of the world around it. But there are a few […]

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Word to the wise: Keep your opinions to yourself

September 22, 2020

This advice goes out to the newer and younger professionals working in corporate communications, public relations and media relations because I’m assuming old dogs such as I already know this: Keep your personal opinions to yourself. I was reminded of the wisdom of this advice yesterday when I read the CNN article that stated, “A public affairs […]

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Advice about goal setting applies to creating talking points: less is more

August 15, 2020

I just finished reading the highly informative, educational and entertaining book The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger. In it, he reveals how he rose from an entry level position at ABC Television in 1974 to eventually become CEO of the Walt Disney Company in 2005. Obtaining the CEO job was certainly not an […]

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Never forget to include the “why” when communicating to employees

May 6, 2020

I read an excellent article in the new issue of American Banker magazine by John Enger about how experiencing past disasters helped bankers deal with the coronavirus crisis (click here to read the entire article). Some of the past disasters the article mentions include Hurricane Katrina in the southern U.S. in 2005 and the 2017 […]

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Virus is a once-in-a-career opportunity for earned coverage

March 12, 2020

The coronavirus has become the number one news story in America and appears it will remain that way for at least the next eight to 12 months. It’s touching practically every segment of society in our country. I’m hard pressed to think of a story as big as this one during my 40+ year career. […]

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