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How to be a Print Reporter's Best Pick
Reporters love sources who understand their needs.
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 by Marsha Friedman
EMSI Public Relations

Marsha FriedmanGetting a call from a reporter who wants to quote you as an expert for his story, review your book or product, or invite you to write an exclusive article for a publication, is a major coup. It means that all your efforts to get noticed are paying off. Who would blow such an opportunity?

Unfortunately, a lot of people. Those who don’t understand journalists’ deadlines and needs are liable to be quickly passed over in favor of sources who do. That lack of knowledge can also rack up lots of wasted time and money for authors and entrepreneurs who take a shotgun approach to blasting their message, books or products to any and all journalists. If you don’t consider their individual needs, you’re likely making a futile effort.

Ginny Grimsley, our ace Print Campaign Manager, has been working with print journalists for years, fielding their requests for interviews, exclusive articles and images.

She’s as much a trusted and appreciated resource for journalists across the country as she is a mentor to clients.

So I asked her to share some of her insights about what journalists need when they come calling. Whether the medium is a newspaper, magazine or blog, the journalists’ work can result in far-reaching exposure. Their articles are likely to be disseminated all over the Internet; one story could be seen by 1 million readers. How’s that for a return on your investment?

Here are some of Ginny’s tips for becoming a favorite news source:

• Many journalists are on tight deadlines. They need to find someoneGinny Grimsley immediately – meaning right now. People who aren’t used to working with daily deadlines tend to think of “immediately” as “within 24 hours” or “sometime this week.” That won’t do for a reporter who has to report, write and file his story today. He will quickly move on to another source if he has to wait for you.

• Along the same lines, if a media contact wants to talk to you – whether it’s today or next Tuesday – make yourself available. I’ve had clients say a particular requested day or time isn’t good because they’ve got a dentist appointment scheduled or a trip to the library planned. If The New York Times wants to interview you, reschedule the cleaning!

• Journalists often want an image to go with their story and that’s great for you – more exposure! So be prepared. Print journalists need high-resolution images, usually 300 dpi (dots per inch). Instructing them to download your picture from Facebook won’t meet their needs. That and many other Web sites automatically squeeze image resolution down to about 72 dpi, which looks fine on a computer monitor, but can’t be printed on paper. Instead, have a professional quality face shot of yourself and a high-resolution image of your book cover at the ready to email.

• If you have some lead time before your interview, send the reporter any relevant material beforehand. A copy of your book or sample of your product and links to articles that have been written about you, and your Web site will help them prepare for the interview.

• To avoid wasting time and money when pitching your book or product to the media, do your homework and learn which reporters and editors might have an interest in your message. The automotive writer will have no interest in gardening tips or products. Likewise, the entertainment editor won’t care about your business and finance book. You should be able to find which journalists cover what beats by visiting the publication’s Web site. If that fails, pick up the phone and call.

• By the same token, authors hoping to get book reviews are tossing money out the window, and straight into the fire, when they mail unsolicited copies to book editors, reviewers and bloggers. These people generally don’t like receiving unsolicited materials and they may not give your book a second look. Instead, send them an email that describes the book and offer to send a copy upon their request.

• Finally, if an editor invites you to write an article or blog post, pay attention to the criteria and the deadline. If you’re asked for 450 words or less, don’t send an 800-word piece. They may request you focus on a specific topic, or write in a specific format, such as tips or first person. Follow instructions, make sure your piece is finalized and proofread, and file on time. Early is better!

As you can see from Ginny’s suggestions, once you know journalists’ needs, they’re really not hard to meet. Being prompt, accommodating and reliable may also have some other benefits: You could become the source the journalist saves in her Rolodex and you might just hear from her again. Or, you may get a call from one of her colleagues; fellow staffers often share their good sources.

Marsha Friedman is a 22-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations, a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to corporations, entertainers, authors and professional firms.

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