Breaking News: How to Release a Report that Reporters Want to Cover

“According to a new report…” 

If you’re an avid consumer of news, you no doubt hear or read this phrase frequently. And if you’re an organization looking to push its messages through the saturated, 24-hour news cycle, there’s almost nothing better than hearing your report mentioned on, say, Marketplace, or reading about it in the pages of The Washington Post.

Despite organizations’ best efforts, however, far more reports fail to attract the media spotlight, regardless of the research, writing time and sweat equity put into their development. These are missed opportunities happening on a daily basis.

Thus, the challenge is clear: How can you ensure that your organization’s report catches the attention of the journalists you want to reach? Here are some tips to keep in mind.

1. When developing key messages about your report, envision the headline you want to see, and write to it. Whether you are responsible for writing the report itself or the accompanying press release or blog post, there’s no better way to refine your message than by conceptualizing how you want the story covered. The Pew Research Center does this quite well, writing blog posts that explain each report just as a news story would. (For some of our favorite examples see here, here, and here.)
2. Cultivate and activate key supporters to champion your message. If you have high-profile board members, donors, or celebrities affiliated with your cause, giving them special access to the report and the opportunity to weigh in publicly can help elevate your news. “Special access” can include inviting them to read an advance copy and pen an introduction or testimonial for the report, sign their names as an advisory committee in support of the report findings, or asking them to draft a supportive op-ed.

3. Make every quote count. Whether you’re crafting talking points or a statement or even drafting a quote for inclusion in the press release, never miss an opportunity to deliver the sound bite that a reporter is looking for. On the flip side, never waste valuable quote real estate with a throwaway line such as, “We are very excited about this report.”  (It reminds us of one of the most famous Strunk & White’s style principles: “Omit needless words.”) Instead of telling us how you feel about it, tell us in concrete terms why we, as readers or viewers, should be interested in your report.

4. Incorporate a prominent and practical digital strategy. Not all organizations take full advantage of social platforms when releasing reports. In addition to packaging a bank of bite-sized, tweet-able and post-able key messages with your report, make sure you offer your audiences easy ways to find the elements they need so the content is easily share-able. For example, we like how First Focus offered social media share images and graphics as part of adigital toolkit in support of their recently-released Children’s Budget 2015 report.

While not every report your organization develops may be written with media coverage in mind, it’s worth making a case for an accompanying media relations strategy. After all, even just one prominently-placed article can help you raise awareness of your mission, spur donations, or move public opinion – all reasons why the dividends of “earned media” are well worth the effort.

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