Are you making it hard for journalists to say “yes”?

Securing positive press coverage for your business school is a smart way to build your reputation.

It can help you increase awareness, support SEO, reach new audiences, and build trust through third-party endorsement.

But when you are under pressure to get coverage, it can be tempting to rush into ‘volume’ tactics.

These include pushing out press releases to a wide list of reporters, contacting media regardless of time or day, and sending pitches that are over-technical or irrelevant.

The result?

A poor response from journalists, leading to patchy or inconsistent press coverage.

Making it harder to build the reputation that you really want.

Step into their shoes

Pitching successfully to journalists starts by putting yourself in their shoes.

Many are still working from home, juggling remote editorial meetings whilst trying to develop their next story. Some work across both print and digital formats, which can mean several deadlines a day.

Cuts in advertising spend have put a squeeze on editorial space. This means that there is a high bar for stories.

A competitive space

No matter how big or old your business school is, getting your story into the press is highly competitive.

You are up against other business schools and EdTech peers, as well as fighting for attention with numerous consultants, independent experts, and leadership & development companies.

Against this backdrop, you often have just one shot to grab the media’s attention.

Ditch ‘the numbers game’

The good news is that journalists do want stories from business schools. And they value expert commentary from academics.

But by playing ‘the numbers game’, business schools can make it harder for journalists to say ‘yes’ to their stories.

Ask yourself – if a journalist knows that the pitch in their in-box has gone out to 100 other journalists, will it be a priority for them?

5 ways to increase your success with the press

If you are struggling to break through with the press, here are five things that you can do to improve your hit-rate.

  1. Tell them why your story matters

A recent poll by Cision found that 45% of journalists agree that press releases could be more effective if they had information relevant to their target audience.

Journalists need to know why your story is relevant to their readers (even better, why it matters now).

As we often say to clients:

“A journalist’s job is to write stories. It is not their job to write your story.”

Most importantly, find your angle. Is this story unusual or counter-intuitive, for instance? Or does it provide new answers for a common problem facing the audience?

  1. Personalise your approach

We all know that personalisation is a big deal in marketing.

The same goes for reaching out to the media. Before you even start to talk to a journalist, do your research:

  • Look at their social media accounts and any online profiles
  • Read, watch or listen to their previous work
  • Get an understanding of who they are writing for and in what format
  • Take note of any preferences regarding how/when they want to be approached
  • Back up your story with new statistics, infographics or offers for further comment.

When you do approach them, perhaps reference one of their recent pieces. Or propose your story for a particular column.

  1. Make your story easy to digest

Some business school stories are complex, particularly those based on research.

But a busy journalist simply doesn’t have the time to read dense, technical, or over-long text.

Focus on the story. Be ruthless with jargon, and remove unnecessary detail. Try to provide colour with your quotes.

It might help to remember that in the UK for example, The Sun newspaper has a reading age of 8, whilst The Guardian has a reading age of 14.

  1. Understand their deadlines

 Have you ever rung or emailed a journalist, only to get a terse response: “It’s not a good time, I’m on deadline.”? Leaving you with a sinking feeling that you blew your chance?

Unfortunately, this situation is more common than you might think. Our answer? Get to know their deadlines (or hire someone who does). As well as understanding what they write, you will give yourself a much better chance of success if you understand how they work.

You can use deadlines to your advantage by selling something into a journalist in advance or under embargo (which means they agree not to use it before a certain time).

  1. Choose your tools wisely

Just for the record, there’s nothing wrong with press releases.

But the problem arises when they are written without the end audience in mind, or over-used.

When you have a story, think first about what you want to achieve for your school.

If it’s news that affects a significant number of people, a press release might be appropriate.

But email pitching will often do the job. Especially when it’s clear why it matters to their readers or viewers.

Remember also that journalists love a good exclusive – and these can be really beneficial for building relationships.

Toby Roe is Co-Founder of specialist business school PR consultancy – Roe Communications.