All the News That’s Fit to Print

the-new-york-timesBy Richard Berman

For the last decade the imminent death of newspapers – at least in their current form – has been a major topic of discussion among public relations professionals. There’s even a cottage industry based on tracking the decline of this medium in the wake of new technologies (check out http://newspaperdeathwatch.com for a pretty good look at the carnage). But even as many publications close their doors, trim staff, merge to stay afloat, or change format one thing hasn’t changed: the New York Times still matters.

I don’t mean in a geopolitical sense – I’m talking about from a marketing perspective. When VerbFactory talks with our clients about their media campaigns, they always bring up the Times as one of the news outlets where they would like to get coverage. It’s one of the very few daily papers that comes up in these conversations, which usually include a wish list of online sources, trade publications, and (print) magazines. The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post also get occasional mentions, but just about everyone seems hardwired to get their story into the pages of the “Gray Lady.”

Not surprisingly, the New York Times gets thousands of press releases thrown at its feet every day, and most of them end up in the discard pile. It’s by no means impossible to get coverage in the paper, but there are a few basic steps that might help tip the balance in your favor:

  1. Have the kind of story that the Times will cover. This sounds pretty basic, but I’m often amazed at what people try to send to reporters there. Unlike many daily papers, the Times will cover news stories outside of its hometown, but there are limits. The editors probably aren’t interested in a company winning a local business award in Missouri.
  2. Have a concise pitch, and send it to the right reporter. This is PR 101 that should apply to every publication, but for the Times it is an immutable rule. They are inundated with interview requests every day, and you have five seconds to make a good impression.
  3. If you manage to get a client past the gates, don’t gloat about it. PR people are (at best) an asset for reporters, but they make their own decisions about what to write about. Going around claiming that you “placed” a story in the Times is highly disrespectful to the people who wrote or edited the story, and the last thing you want to do is burn a bridge with them.
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