5 Top Ways Reporters Find Sources and Stories


Frank StrongBy Frank Strong, Author of the blog, Sword and The Script

When you have a question no one seems to know the answer to, what’s the first thing you do? If your answer involves turning to Google, then you’re not unlike the 250 or so reporters the agency Wasabi Publicity recently surveyed. According to the survey, the top ways reporters find sources and stories are:

1. Google
2. Pitches
3. Breaking news
4. Social Media
5. Press releases

The survey matches my own experience and I believe represents a substantial evolution to the classic corporate media relations program. The results are precisely why PR should embrace content marketing.

What Does Content Marketing have to do with PR?

Several years ago, I was pitching a story to a reporter that I thought was tailored, timely and a good fit for both the journalist and publication. Despite my experience, intuition and persistence, I simply couldn’t get a response.

Yet I knew it was a good story – a story with legs. So after several attempts, I re-worked my pitch into a blog post and published it on the company blog. The post gained traction in social media, which was in part the desired effect, but then something else happened: it earned links and mentions from several other news outlets.

I had a special epiphany that day: the soft and subtle pitch of content marketing created media relations opportunities beyond the conventions of crisis communications and newsjacking. Content marketing needed to be a pillar of PR because it integrates the five ways reporters find sources and stories identified in this survey – and more.

Building Trust and Credibility through Content

Reporters look for signals of trust and credibility among sources. According to the report:

“Once sources have been identified, the next step is to evaluate which sources are best for coverage. According to the survey respondents, an impressive 77% of them specifically look for a source to be a recognized expert in their field. Traditional thought was that having written a book is a major determining factor here, but the journalists who responded to the survey reported that only 8.6% of them look for book authorship when evaluating a source.”

Google looks for those elements too in ranking content in response to search queries. In many ways, good content marketing — that which is focused on utility, hype-free help, and education — becomes a source for search engines to index and shortcut for reporters evaluating sources.

Is it perfect? No, which is why content marketing is one pillar and not a replacement for PR.

Perhaps that’s what Wasabi CEO Drew Gerber meant when he suggested to that PR professionals should “not forget our relationship-building roots: personal outreach.”

About the Author: Frank Strong is a communications director with more than 15 years of experience in the high-tech sector. He previously served as director of public relations for Vocus, which developed marketing, PR and media monitoring software. He has held multiple roles both in-house with corporations, ranging from startups to global organizations, and with PR firms including the top 10 global firm Hill & Knowlton.  


1 Comment

  1. Ford Kanzler on at 10:43 AM

    Useful reinforcement of an important topic: “What to Media Pros Want?” Always good knowing and understanding how it may be evolving.
    But, come on, “content marketing” aimed at journalists isn’t at all somehow new. Its been called media relations, aimed at creating publicity which has been practiced by PR pros decades before any of us were born. Content Marketing is merely a recently made-up term for what’s long existed. Just using new technology (the web) to accomplish it doesn’t make it some sort of new communication phenomenon or require it be named something different. Its just one of the important aspects of media relations, which in turn is part of PR’s wide range of valuable strategies and tactics.
    On the essential aspect of establishing source credibility, in the dozens of successful media pitches accomplished for my clients, its made very clear the named author, contributor or company certainly knows the content topic being pitched, whether its an article or a briefing interview. Their credentials are always included at the end. If they’ve published previously, that’s briefly mentioned as well, particularly if they’ve been published in the publication being pitched.
    Pitches must be sharp, short and topically right on the money. Also, recontacting the journalist with a polite request for a response the idea is also typically required. They get too much stuff and your pitch is often lost in the clutter. Don’t be afraid of nicely asking twice or more for a reply. Being pushy won’t get you anywhere.

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