New York blogger and web marketing consultant, BL Ochman, said she learnt the magic question to ask a reporter when pitching a story angle. In one of her blogs, Ochman said it is fine for the story angle to be featured in the media and for the reporter to be interested your potential as a future source of news. But you should plan to ask the key interview question:
Will you include the name of my company (and a link to it) in your article?
It must be said that this is certainly an ‘in-your-face’ question. Many people would not feel comfortable asking this question to a reporter from a major news outlet – and most reporters would think it is unprofessional for you to ask this question. It is more suited to a news website or industry publication.
Ochman had been interviewed for an article in an e-magazine in which neither her consultancy nor her project were named, and nor was there a link to her blog or consultancy. As a result, the pitch was completely wasted. Although her name was used in the story, it would have meant little to readers.
With some trepidation she emailed the reporter about this key interview question, who immediately apologized and added the link.
With online media, additions like this can be made after the event, and so she had saved the day. The experience was a seminal event for her.
Nevertheless, this raises the question of the professionalism of such an article. Merely quoting a person in a story gives no context at all for the reader. In my view, a reporter has a duty to name the person being quoted and their relevance/organization in a story to help the reader to understand their relevance and substance. If I read an article in which the spokesperson’s name only was mentioned, I wouldn’t rate the writer very highly. The exception tends to be political reporting, in which sources refuse to be identified because they might suffer political repercussions for their comments.
I noticed a question put to a Facebook group about this topic in 2019 from a PR person in Madrid:
I’m new to PR and could use some advice. After sending out a press release for a campaign we are running, seven media outlets wrote a piece on our work. However, NONE of them linked to us. From an SEO point of view, this is so depressing for me. Is this common in the industry? I figure journalists/editors don’t want to put external links so that people don’t leave their sites. Or maybe they’d want money for it? Can anyone confirm my assumptions? Would it be rude of me to ask them to link us?,
The reader hasn’t mentioned whether the name of her client company was published in any of the 7 media outlets, which would have been a consolation. Assuming the name of the client or the client’s firm wasn’t mentioned, the advice from Shaheen Samavati of the host website, VeraContent, was that “it generally doesn’t hurt to ask.” However, Samavarti also went on to say about this potential key interview question:
Just keep in mind that if you’re going to ask for a link, it has to be relevant to the article and to readers. Asking for a link to your company website is a reasonable request if (and only if!) the company itself is what the news is about. If a source from your company was quoted for their expertise in an article about something else entirely, you shouldn’t ask for a link. Not for risk of seeming “rude,” but more importantly, because it may make the journalist question your judgement as a professional, and trust you less in the future.
Still, the magic question is worth considering in your media relations activity. If you don’t feel comfortable asking the direct question, you can use your communication acumen to think of ways to ask it more tactfully. If the topic is controversial or about a prominent topic, you could say in a phone pitch something tactful, like “I would just like to confirm the spelling of my firm’s/client firm’s name because people quite often think it is spelt differently.” In an emailed pitch, you could say something like, “My client/our CEO said they are happy to be quoted by name and the organization as well, rather than just as an industry source because these names give more credibility and substance to a quote.”
Successful media pitches heavily depend on the timing of the pitch. My article, “How to get the best timing for successful media pitches,” explains when you should pitch to different types of media for the best chances of a successful result.
By Silvia Arto, Vice President of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, Chair of the European Regional
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