How to make journalists listen

How to get journalists to listen

In 1995, I started my first job with the BBC.

I was the traffic reporter, and after hanging around the studios long enough, became programme assistant on The Mid-Morning Show, but only when the real PA Richard Bacon couldn’t make it.

A team of five or six people made 15 hours of live speech radio a week, and we didn’t rely on phone calls and talking points. No, we made programmes. It was wonderful and a real introduction to a busy news room, and I can’t remember how we did it.

It’s been 20 years since I took that first step into broadcasting and journalism and it was a world of analogue.

I learnt how to use a Revox and a Uher, I’d fight for NAB centres, and I’d be scared of the bulk tape eraser that told you to take watches off and pacemakers out. When you edited, you did it with a razor blade and sticky tape. If your show was running long, you’d play everything out on the ‘vari-speed’ setting and turn the tape speed up slightly (not too much or the reporter would sound like she’d inhaled helium). The jingles were on ‘Cart’, the blue cartridge that would make every news bulletin a cacophony of whirring and squeaking.

Sorry, but I’ve been mugged down memory lane.

When I went to commercial radio for the first time ever, I had a machine doing my job for me. It played the music. I didn’t have to put a CD in or queue vinyl; I had to press a button and the music played. Genius.

The newsroom was still notepads and books of contacts, but there were four computers. Four of them. I even had an email address.

How does that affect you as a business or person who wants to get featured?

1) There are fewer journalists
In the same way the computer played the music for me, why do you need a team of researchers when you have Google? Why do you need an experienced journalist with years of contacts when you can have a student and a Twitter feed? Then you add economics to the deindustrialisation. As newspapers lose more money, the number of journalists falls. The same is true in the UK for the BBC; because the commercial sector is horribly understaffed, they are seen as leaner and giving better value, so that model is taken on.

2) There are more services
Fewer journalists are having to serve more outlets. It used to be a paper, radio station or TV show, but now it’s websites, social feeds, YouTube channels, blogs, and more.

3) There is more noise
Yes, the press release has been with us ever since someone thought his company was newsworthy. Now everyone wants to be featured — everyone wants to send a press release everywhere. It feels like you’re doing something if you send a press release.

What can you do to get featured in a world of fewer people doing more with less? You appeal directly to the journalist, you target properly, you speak the right language and you play the game — only this time you get to know the rules!

You can watch John’s webinar ‘How to Make Journalists Listen’ here for more tips.

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About the author

John Rockley is Media and Presentation Trainer and Consultant at jdoubler. He spent 16 years with the BBC where he became a Senior Broadcast Journalist. Since starting jdoubler he’s trained senior teams across the UK & Europe in Media Engagement, Presentation Skills and Crisis Media planning. In his spare time he helps raise his 2 children, gets cross about the news, and does needle work. For more information go to jdoubler.co.uk or connect via LinkedIn, Twitter or YouTube More blog posts by John Rockley ››
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