Monday, July 28, 2008

Ease Media's Load: Tip, Don't Tease

The roots of this post's topic appeared in last Monday's Inside Edge PR blog post, "Fighting City Hall."

Having covered local government for the better part of 15 years, I can say from experience that he who furnishes the municipal reporter with the most background information--and a clear road map on how they can navigate the reporting process---is exponentially more likely to spark coverage.

If you were an underpaid/overworked reporter, which of these pitches would move you to action?

Pitch A:


Wondering if you would you be interested in looking into a story suggestion involving the village of Riverside and its (mis)handling of a garage construction approval process for a new family in town?

Pitch B:


I'm passing along a story suggestion involving the village of Riverside and its (mis)handling of a garage construction approval process for a new family in town, the Udelsons.

As a pediatric dentist, Jerry Udelson knows very well how to communicate with children in a potentially stressful situation. But he and his wife, Michelle, are at their wit’s end with Riverside officials.

They have spent $70,000 to build a garage, based on plans approved multiple times by the village, only to have Riverside officials later say that, oops, they shouldn't have approved those plans, after all.

Now they want the Udelsons to tear it down and start over—a scenario that would cost another $100,000.

Meanwhile, the debacle is costing all Riverside residents: the village has already spent thousands of dollars in legal, architectural and plan review consultants to fight the Udelsons.

A website with much more detail, including video clips of Jerry and Michelle, is at Please let me know if you are interested in learning more; I can put you in touch with Jerry, Michelle, their attorney and neighbors as well.

Now, the choice should be obvious.

Pitch "A" is a tease, masquerading poorly as a tip. Reporters don't like being teased. If you have more information that can help them gauge whether to pursue a story idea, then provide it.

Pitch "B" is a bonafide tip that provides a clear blueprint of the story, at least from your client's perspective. It requires some more up-front work, and some more creative thought, but the payoff is you are much more likely to get the media coverage you seek.

Do some heavy lifting to ease reporters' load. They'll appreciate it, and so will your clients.

(By the way, Pitch "B" just went out to various members of the local Chicago media. I'll keep you updated on what kind of media coverage occurs in the days and weeks to come.)

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