Navigating the newsroom: understanding the art of journalism and pitching

What makes a journo tick?

Empowering the next generation of PRs while uncovering today's challenges in journalism.

By Bella Sewards, Account Executive

Last week, Icon Agency had the privilege of hosting a CPRA x FLOC panel event, which brought together over 40 guests eager to learn more about journalism and the art of pitching. The panel featured three distinguished journalists: Georgia Westgarth from A Current Affair, Bianca O'Neill, a versatile freelancer contributing to publications like Refinery29 and Rolling Stone, and Laura Placella from The Herald Sun.

It was great to see so many young aspiring PR professionals attend the event, where we delved into the world of journalism, and had the opportunity to ask burning questions.

40 people attending meet the media event sponsored by ICON

Tips for PR professionals pitching to journalists

Personalisation is paramount

Knowing your journalist and tailoring your pitch accordingly is crucial. Avoid generic copy-paste approaches and instead craft personalised pitches based on the journalist's interests and recent work. Additionally, refrain from copying a media release directly into the body of your email, as it can appear overwhelming.

Understanding different journalism formats

Recognise the nuances between pitching to broadcast journalists versus freelancers or city reporters. Tailor your approach to align with their specific interests and publication styles.

Embrace the power of exclusivity

Embracing exclusivity to journalists entails providing a story that has not yet been in the news, assuring its unique worth. To maintain the story's exclusivity and maximise effect, exclusives should be limited to one journalist or media outlet. Using the word "exclusive" in email subject lines may dramatically boost your chances of capturing a journalist's attention. When offering exclusives, make sure you uphold your commitments and establish a timeframe so the journalist understands that if they don't meet the deadline, they will lose the opportunity.

Building meaningful relationships

Off-the-record conversations and genuine efforts to understand a journalist's preferences are essential for fostering trust and ensuring your pitches stand out. Consider staying updated on their current interests by following them on Instagram. Also, keep in mind that some journalists may only respond to familiar faces.

Respecting time constraints and preferences

Journalists work under tight deadlines. Respect their chosen communication method and keep your pitches succinct. Highlight your story's newsworthiness and relevance to their audience and publication. Understand that the journalist, like you, is pitching to their editor. If they do not respond promptly, it is not a definitive no.

Georgia Westgarth from A Current Affair, Bianca O'Neill, freelancer contributing to publications like Refinery29 and Rolling Stone, and Laura Placella from The Herald Sun

Challenges of journalism

The conversation also shed light on the challenges that journalists confront in today's media environment, which many of us in PR may be unaware of. From combating misinformation and fake news to adapting to technological advancements like AI, journalists are constantly navigating new challenges. The panel stressed the importance of evolving alongside journalism's evolution and encouraged creative, tailored approaches to storytelling and pitching. This might involve sending them videos or images that you know will appeal to their target audience, as well as advice on where the article could sit, such as on page 3 of the Herald Sun print edition.

Are we keeping up?

As the future of journalism changes dramatically with the convergence of print and digital media, considering the future of the press release becomes fascinating. It's clear that journalists' preferences vary - some like press releases, while others don't. As a result, agencies must adjust their approach to the journalist as well as the material being pitched.

For data-heavy topics, a detailed press release may be required, but simple and convincing bullet points inside the email body are preferred for general news pitches. Broadcast news outlets often rely on press releases for fact checks, whereas freelancers may prefer a simple email explaining the article framework.

Dark room, 3 chairs, presentation on screen behind

The panel left us wondering:

  • Are we doing enough to keep up with journalism's evolution?
  • Is sending an email the easy way out?

The consensus was clear - creativity, personalised pitches, and genuine relationship-building are imperative to navigating today's evolving media landscape.