Getting journalists to come to you

The principles of Inbound PR

The press release is pretty much dead. Talk to many PRs and you’ll find they simply don’t use them anymore.

Journalists are bombarded with press releases every day, many of which are little better than adverts. So, what do they do when they get thousands of emails? They ignore them.

It’s not true of all sectors of course, especially niche sectors but any widescale/general interest topic will have this problem and that presents YOU with a problem if you are trying to reach journalists. This is why more and more PRs are trying different approaches.

To get press coverage now often means becoming more like an “agent for journalists”. You hunt down stories for them, find facts for them, package the facts up in a format they can use and make life as easy as possible.

If you can do that, and find a story they actually want, they’ll love you for it because you have done their job for them.

There are a number of different ways of doing this but one approach we covered in series 4 of the show.

What is “Inbound PR”

Inbound PR is the principle of getting journalists to come to you.

Illyana Stareva wrote a book on the topic called Inbound PR and she appeared on the show. There is a link to the episode below.

One of the core concepts is focused on writing content on your organisation’s website which is designed to be read not by the public but by journalists.

The article needs to be a comprehensive and reliable “resource” on the topic. It needs to answer all the questions a journalist might want to know in order to write a story on a topic that you want to be connected with.

The goal then is that by putting this content out there online, it will then pick up search engine traffic (SEO) and among the people “stumbling” across your article will be journalists trying to write stories.

When they see it they’ll think “this is a great resource” and “these people know their stuff”. With any luck, they will then put you in their contacts book or interview you on the spot.

The article must be of good quality as Illyana emphasises in the episode. This is not about pumping out short, click-baity articles. There are millions of those already and it’s hard to compete with the many “article mills” out there.

The goal then is to stand out above the noise with a few high-quality articles, something the mills just can’t compete with.

What should you put in it?

The crucial thing when writing the content is to write it for a journalist and not for members of the public.

While both audiences might be curious about your content, your aim here (and so what you put in the article) is focused on providing the facts journalists need to write their pieces.

Think of your article as being like a Wikipedia page about the topic, not a press release. Include facts, evidence and data they can use to write their story.

Explain it all in clear English. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, because it helps journalists understand the issues quickly and secondly because it demonstrates you can communicate with their audience who may not always be as technical as you. If you can prove you can communicate, then it will show you might be worth interviewing.

Also, don’t forget to demonstrate your credibility. Why are you the expert to comment on this? Tell them in the contact info at the bottom but also in the content too. Include short quotes they can use from your team but make those insightful. Ensure those quotes add value. For example, “in my experience, widgets are not going to be around in 10 years” is far more newsworthy than “our widgets are best”!

And ensure the journalist has enough to write the story. If what you say doesn’t make sense on its own, they may give up thinking the topic is too hard or worse, find a better explanation on your competitor’s site. So research the story yourself, be the journalist and do their job for them.

How long does it take to work?

I was speaking to some folks at Hubspot the other day who do a lot of inbound marketing. The answer is that it can take at least a month for a good article to be indexed on search engines. So you want to be writing this content now before you try to gain attention around it or release any other marketing.

How often do I need to write?

Obviously, keep your article up to date. If things change, change it. There is nothing worse than a journalist getting something wrong because they trusted you and you let them down.

Don’t be afraid to write new articles too. Expand on the points in your article in more detail. Write new versions to reflect the latest trends, etc. By focusing on specific aspects with different titles, search engines have more ways to find you but keep the quality level up.

Is this just about writing articles?

No. As with all PR you need to go where you audience are. If the journalists you are trying to reach are on Twitter, you need to be publishing your content on Twitter. If they are on LinkedIn, then LinkedIn articles might be the place.

Action Step

Could you spend a bit of time today outlining an article? Could you then flesh it out next week and write the first draft the week after? As Illyana says, it does take time for these things to start getting indexed but it could be a powerful way to start attracting journalists and getting them coming to you.

Listen to the episode for more context