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How to communicate effectively with journalists

Updated: May 31, 2022

(from the viewpoint of a journalist)

Cultivating good relationships with the press and getting your story in front of them is no easy task. Here are the do, and don’ts for fintech companies.

You have an innovative new idea, and you are certain it has the potential to enrich the financial services industry. But you are not yet in the league of Visa or Mastercard, and with no sprawling marketing department to call upon, it is going to be a challenge to get your new disruptor ‘out there’. So, how do you bridge the gap between your brilliance in development and your lack of marketing prowess? You make the most of established media outlets and their widespread tentacles, which have already stretched out into all of those areas you need to reach.

The power of the press, as it was once so famously dubbed, or, perhaps more accurately nowadays – the magnificence of the media! But to truly take advantage of the benefits, you need to get past its gate-keepers – that’s the journalists.

And the best way to do that is to give them exactly what they want or, more to the point, what they need. Journalists are highly attuned to spotting a good idea or nice narrative, and capable of presenting to the world in an optimal fashion. But they are habitually time-poor. The closer your own content is to their final version, the better.

Things to remember As a fintech, one of the first things you should do is identify your best media outlet, or outlets, and familiarise yourself with what their published content is like in terms of length, tone and presentation. Then you can shape your own offering to match their content thus reducing the amount of time they will need to make it fit for their audience’s consumption. Take traditional print newspapers, for example. A well-written press release is still an absolute delight for a reporter working under tight deadlines. Not well-written in the sense it titillates and amuses – although these extra ingredients can help – but more that it is easy to understand, accurate, and always, always concise. A journalism standard for what newspapers categorise as a lead story is 350 words - not much at all.

For illustration, the word ‘here’, here, is the 341st word of this blog. So, work out what you really need to say and say it in as few words as possible.

Make sure your intro paragraph is an engaging aggregation of the entire story and follow up with a number of short, information-packed paragraphs until you hit your 350 word marker. Your mum might be impressed by your convoluted university dissertation-esque piece of writing, but it is not the right tool for the job here. If the journalist wants more information they will ask you for it.

So, make yourself available for the next couple of days after sending it; this will give you time to field enquiries if necessary. You should know your new product or service intimately and be able to easily articulate exactly what it is and why it is brilliant!. Include at least one quoted person and spell their full name and position correctly. For a bonus point, make them available for interview in a notes section at the end of your release. Wherever possible, supply a good quality headshot photograph of the quoted individual. And although these ‘rules’ are related to the newspaper world, they also certainly apply to the increasingly ubiquitous online news outlets.

Keeping the faith Remember not to be offended or surprised if your own lovingly curated press release looks and reads very differently once published. A multitude of reasons – from house-style to editorial space – mean it is unlikely to be a cut-and-paste replication; certainly not if you are working with a good media outlet where professional journalists are recruited to improve your own work. Equally, do not be disheartened if it is not used at all, and you get no response.

The factors behind story selection on a newsdesk are many, and you should persevere with trying to build relationships with those who can be vital to your marketing success. Finally, before you send your story on its way, you need to revisit that bit of research you did on your selected media outlet and check its publishing deadlines. You will need to know the best time to send over your words (copy as it is known in the trade) in order for the news desk to factor it into their own overall content plan. There is much more to say about best practices, but if you stick to this brief outline then you will have broken the back of it, and it will help you build the contacts, experiences and reputation needed to consistently deliver great PR results.

© The PR toolkit content is copyrighted to The Finance Talks

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