The Key to Great Media Relations: Act Like a Journalist

I grew up at Maclean’s, Canada’s national news magazine. It was my first real job out of university and I was a part of the Maclean’s “family” for decades. Until I started AHA in 2003 (with co-founder Paul Holman), I was listed on the masthead as a Contributing Editor. At Maclean’s I was surrounded by some of the best journalists in the country (and I would argue, in the world). They were smart, knowledgeable and dedicated. Quite a few of them took the time to help me, mentor me, show me the ways of journalism and taught me how to tell a good story based on facts. They also drove into me what makes a story and how to pitch it so you got approval to do the piece. That is a skill set I use every day as a communicator.

We have a process at AHA that is similar to what a story idea would go through in a newsroom. We put the idea and the pitch through its paces and spend time on making sure that not only is the core idea able to stand up, that the pitch itself is crafted in a way that speaks to the community or audience that we are targeting. And, I have to say – sometimes the pitch might not generate coverage, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. There is only so much room for stories in newspapers, magazines, morning shows and the news. Sometimes, it isn’t the story, it’s the space and that’s where, as communicators, we are fortunate to work in a time that allows us to share the story through websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media networking sites.

I recently came across an interesting post on that talks about how to pitch media. It’s worth a read.

There is a skill and a craft to pitching media and to generating coverage for an organization. It takes time, effort, research and planning – and it takes an ability to take the facts and information and tell them in a compelling way. So much has changed in the last decade – technology has given us so much opportunity to share information and our stories with a larger community. What hasn’t changed is that if you want someone to pay attention, at the heart of it all, you need a story that matters to them and you need tell it well.

On a side note, I have to admit that watching the reports about the News of the World newspaper being shut down because of the phone hacking scandal, I wish that I could recreate the Friday nights at Maclean’s when we would all go for a beer after work and talk about news. I would love to know what they think of this and if they were ever tempted to bend their integrity for a story.

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