10 Tips to Hit the Headlines

February 20th, 2007   •   9 comments   •   Author: Walter Lim   

This is a rehash of something I wrote for a major national newspaper more than two years ago. I have tweaked it to be more comprehensive, with the general principles remaining the same. Of course, this doesn’t guarantee coverage everytime, but if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!

Here are 10 tips to improve your chances of making it into the news:

1) Understand the needs and target audiences of different media. Establish rapport with journalists and editors and speak to them to understand what they are gunning for. Which categories of stories do they normally cover? What are their editorial styles?

2) Think how your business or work can appeal as a story. At the same time, create different story angles to cater to the needs of different media. Are there any human-interest elements in your business (rags to riches can be quite popular)? How about quirky facts or pioneering breakthroughs like being the only bak kwa stall which blogs or being the first convenience store specially catered to seniors?

3) Write a press release. These should be tightly written, cramming the most amount of information into the least amount of words. Think of the “Whos, Whats, Wheres, Whens, Whys, and Hows” (5W 1 H). Write in an inverted pyramid format (though there are exceptions), with strong headlines and fact-filled leading paragraphs. Quotations from significant individuals like the CEO or founder are also useful to have.

4) Prepare a press kit. These are tools that help reporters at their job and to paint a compelling story. Fact sheets, websites, photographs, maps, architectural plans, artist impressions, video clips, sound files, customer testimonials, white papers and other essential materials should be included.

5) Employ the most effective and timely means of reaching the press. Find out if they prefer you to call, email, fax or SMS. Also, ensure that the information is fresh and not already used elsewhere. Journalists are constantly fighting a battle with tight demanding deadlines so its important to meet their schedules.

6) Create an original publicity stunt that is relevant to your business. Something unusual, wacky and newsy – like getting the most number of senior citizens in your shop at one time (why college students only?). Donate all your profits for one day to a particular charity.

7) Get others to talk about you. These could be customers, experts in the field, suppliers, or Board Members. Send these testimonials and their contacts to the press if they are really significant. Third party views work magic, especially if they are credible and believable (ie dispense with the hardsell).

8) Create photography, video or sound opportunities for the media. Nothing gets good coverage faster than interesting photographs for newspapers (not smile-and-say-cheese posed shots!). Unique sound bites may get you national radio coverage, while dramatically choreographed activities (like a CEO sky diving for a branch opening) would generate TV news.

9) Position yourself as a newsmaker by providing opportunities to showcase thought leadership or expertise. For example, offer to conduct public workshops in an area that you are good at. Anything from baking, marketing, retailing, to massage therapies. Draft a white paper, conduct a study, or start a wiki, blog or podcast relevant to your area.

10) After you have basked in the limelight (hopefully), create a pipeline for future media opportunities. Keep the media abreast of the latest newsworthy developments in your organisation. Send them your calendar of events, and invite them often to your events and activities.

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  1. Benjamin Koe
    posted on Feb 20, 2007 at 5:35 AM

    12) Seed the story to bloggers first and tease the hell out of the media for not getting the scoop.

    Ego is a great motivating factor and no professional journo will want to be seen loosing out to amateur citizen journalists.

  2. posted on Feb 20, 2007 at 2:38 AM

    11) hope that nothing big happens on the same day.

    nice suggestions.

  3. posted on Feb 20, 2007 at 5:30 AM

    Great post!

    After reading your 10 tips, I know why I’ve got this feeling something’s amiss when I tried to do a press release.

    With your 10 tips, I’ll probably use it like a checklist, my next press release will probably be more complete and definitely look, sound and feel more professional.

    Thank you for the tips.

  4. posted on Feb 20, 2007 at 1:38 PM

    Coleman and Ben,

    Thanks for your fabulous points 11) and 12)! Certainly agree that a major disaster or political announcement will ruin your chances of getting front page news, or a tiny column even if you are lucky. For the point on pre-empting the blogosphere before it reaches mainstream media, the view on it is still rather dicey and PR practitioners like Ben and myself have to tread on it carefully. Perhaps we may have an opportunity to work together on something like this eh Ben? *wink*

  5. posted on Feb 20, 2007 at 1:41 PM

    Heng Cheong,

    Thanks for popping by and glad that you found the tips useful. They are first step to take in the art and science of grabbing media attention. There is of course a lot of other factors involved, and much of it doesn’t even need to involve a press release. Perhaps later I will be blogging more about this topic, including some insider views.

  6. posted on Feb 21, 2007 at 2:47 AM

    wah brudder, brings me back to school days man…I feel younger now..keke..but good tips tho, its about time I go through the checklist again to see if I have been slacking… :p

    but perhaps if I could add to point 10 tho…you can take the editors out for lunch or a golf game (if applicable) to keep them up to date on your activities, events.

  7. posted on Feb 21, 2007 at 10:36 AM


    That’s a good one. This is why we have bought quite a few of them lunch in recent weeks, and also a reason for my ever expanding waistline! ;(

  8. posted on Feb 22, 2007 at 10:07 AM

    13) Always target the right media. There’s someone whose beat is to cover news like yours – find out who that is. The last thing you want is a reply like: “Review your latest fancy-schmansy consumer electronic gadget that can communicate with aliens? But I’m a crime reporter.”

  9. posted on Feb 22, 2007 at 3:28 AM

    Good advise!
    I hope that I can pick up some of these tips and implement them into the marketing activities 🙂

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