|Posted on May 17, 2010 at 9:15 AM|
Question: "What's the #1 question on the mind of every business editor, every day?
Answer: “What are we going to do for art?"
"Art" is newspaper jargon for the photos and graphics that run on almost every page, and always on the front page and on section fronts.
Newspapers, magazines and other print media all report the news using both words and pictures. But some stories are easier to illustrate than others. Entertainment, sports, weather, fashion, charity and many political stories often provide dramatic visual images that help tell the tale.
On the other hand, there is the plight of the business editor. The vast majority of business is done by people sitting at desks, working on computers or telephones, or in conference rooms. There may be dramatic goings on at these desks and in these conference rooms - mergers or acquisitions, huge customer deals, you name it - but most of the time there's nothing interesting to photograph.
Yet you'll notice that not a day goes by when the business section is devoid of graphic content. Editors expect the business section to look like the rest of the newspaper, so business editors have to come up with eye-catching graphics to go with the stories they are reporting.
This is where PR people come in. Business editors rely heavily on PR people to help their photographers and graphic artists illustrate the stories running in the business section.
Got a spiral staircase in your building? Tell the photographer and have your spokesperson photographed standing on it. Your CEO likes to ride his bike during lunch hour? Talk him into allowing himself to have his picture taken while riding it.
You can even use this bit of knowledge to pitch stories. Identify novel-looking objects, locations or activities within your organization, and figure out how you can link them to the story you are pitching. Then bring up the availability of this good photo opportunity to the reporter or editor you are pitching. Even reporters, who don't generally have to worry about the visuals for their stories, have been trained to perk up their ears to listen for and find good photo ops. And don't be shy about pointing out that your spokesperson or key executive is a woman or a physically challenged - given the lack of women and physically challeged business leaders, that will spark the interest of business editors as well.
When you don't have a good photo op, try to find a way to illustrate your story with graphics, such as charts and even artwork. In this case, be careful to look for truly newsworthy statistical information or artwork that supplements your story. And also be careful not to pitch proprietary or hard-to-research information or you could wind up promising something you can't deliver.
If you are already working with a reporter on a story, you can still use this strategy, since reporters usually talk to many sources for a story - but only one or two get their picture in the paper. Sometimes, if the story is of enough importance, the editor might request a specific picture to illustrate it. But just as often,they are on a tight deadline and looking for just about anyone they can take a picture of. Have your picture taken, and you are not only very likely to have it appear, you are also going to be quoted prominently in the story as justification for having your picture there.
Final point: this is another example of how being a thoughtful PR person who understands the needs of the media can help you be successful at your job. Most of the time, you don't need fancy media strategies to get coverage. You just need to know how the media works and what they need from PR people - especially when it comes to knowing their photographic needs. And maybe even more importantly, you'll make a good impression on the journalists you are working with, which will help your career and increase your pitching success over the long run.
Delroy A. Whyte-Hall