Your Online Newsroom: How to Give Reporters a Tip

It's hard to imagine a reporter working today who doesn't regularly visit "official" company websites. And it's hard to imagine just how much those websites have improved reporters' lives.

Instead of calling a company for more information and waiting days for their press pack to arrive, reporters can now get the information they need in minutes with a few clicks of a mouse.

The above two paragraphs are obvious ? so obvious, you might think, that they're barely worth mentioning. But a quick glance at corporate and nonprofit websites reveals that many companies and nonprofits are missing a golden opportunity to sell their stories.

Most websites are good about posting their latest news and press releases. Reporters come to the site, see what's already been announced, get what they need and leave.

But a few very clever websites are also using those visits to plant seeds for future stories with reporters. They "soft pitch" them on general themes or trends ? not specific stories, but unique angles ? from which reporters can tell a larger story.

The Urban Land Institute, a Washington, DC based nonprofit specializing in land use issues, does this particularly well.

In their online "News" section, the group maintains a "Leads, Tips, and Ideas" file for reporters. They view each reporter's visit as an opportunity to encourage them to write more than a single story about their group.

For example, ULI recently suggested in its "Tips" section that reporters cover land use issues from the perspective of Generation Y, that 73 million person block of Americans born between 1979 and 1994. That young generation is forcing housing and entertainment developers to change their strategies to accommodate Gen Y's desires. As a result, developers who understand their needs are thriving; those who don't are at risk.

"These tips are a great way to raise our visibility with the media," said Trisha Riggs, ULI's Director of Communications. "The Generation Y tip has resulted in some several news stories."

Ms. Riggs hopes these tips will result in news stories, but says another purpose is to draw the media to their website regularly and remind them that they're available to help.

In addition to posting the news tips online, Riggs says, "We send them out to reporters at least once every two months by e-mail." Those e-mails also often result in increased coverage.

How can you develop tips? Ask your staff to notify you when they write a new paper, serve on a panel or give a speech. You'll likely hear about an emerging trend, threat, or compelling fact that would be interesting to a reporter.

These tips have one additional benefit. Your company's issues are often "important," but don't have that extra something that pushes them into the world of the "newsworthy." But tips make a nice outlet for important stories, even those that lack an immediate newsworthy element. They may not always result in a big feature story, but they may be included as a small part of a story a reporter is already working on.

Give reporters regular tips and they'll have a good reason to be a repeat visitor to your website. And the more they know about you, the more stories they'll write about you.

Brad Phillips is the founder and president of Phillips Media Relations. He was formerly a journalist for ABC News and CNN, and headed the media relations department for the second largest environmental group in the world.

For more information and to sign up for free monthly media relations and media training e-tips, visit

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