How to Cultivate Buzz with Journalists


Last week I published my top ten tips for marketing your website, although admittedly many of them have already been covered to death elsewhere. But one tactic that has always posed a puzzle for every marketing and PR agency is how to generate buzz in the traditional media. It’s all well and good being able to publish articles every week, but they’re not going to attract traffic and back-links unless you’re also generating exposure.

Almost on cue, last week Anna Farmery on her podcast ‘The Engaging Brand’ discussed ways of generating buzz with veteran business journalist Nettie Hartsock, who now concentrates on helping individuals and companies to get their stories heard.

Nettie shared some valuable tips on not only how to engage with bloggers, but also how to get your stories noticed by traditional journalists.

Discover what stories they cover

A key point she raised is that whilst bloggers have the creative freedom to set their own topic guidelines journalists can only cover stories that fit within their editorial framework and appeal to their target audience.

Therefore the trick is put together a dossier of the type of stories being covered by your industry’s 5-10 journalists and then assess how you can build a similar story around your own company.

Once you’ve got your story together, Nettie’s advice is to compose a two paragraph, concisely worded email in the style of a query.

Detail to the journalist your interest in the last couple of stories they’ve covered, and then offer some fresh insight into how the topic could be expanded.

Become their trusted source

Journalists are always on the hunt for new sources to feed them fresh, unique content in order to stay on-the-ball and to be able to offer their readers info they wont find elsewhere.

By reaching out in this helpful and respectful manner, rather than trying to mail bomb them into submission, journalists will be more inclined to respond and listen to what you have to say. Then you can start feeding them details of your own company’s story and why they should be the main feature in their next issue.

For this tactic to work you have to be able to offer the journalist useful information they won’t find after a quick search on Google. This means you either have to become and expert in your industry or find someone in the company who already is.

Then you’ve got to coax them into spilling the beans on what the journalists are missing so you can offer a story that differentiates you from the hundreds of pitches a journalist is bombarded with every day.

Not everybody spends all day online

It’s easy to get carried away with all the enthusiasm for throwing all your marketing onto the internet when you read blogs all day. But it’s important to remember that the majority of people still get a lot of their information offline and from the traditional media.

Consequently, journalists can be powerful friends because they still wield significant power in cultivating buzz for your products and brand.

5 thoughts on “How to Cultivate Buzz with Journalists

  1. I have to say I found the interview with Nettie fantastic – it really helps understanding the difference between engaging traditional and social media sources. I still love the idea of a story – I know this is often said but when I see PR it is often lacking that story…it needs that human element to help it stand out from the crowd.

  2. This was an excellent post.

    As a journalist, I am sometimes asked for tips on how a business can get highlighted in newspapers. One of the first things I tell people is that there has to be a hook or a story or else the editor will not publish the story.

    What has the business done in the community? What makes it unique? Those sorts of questions help a journalist see if there is a story that can be written and published that will meet his/her needs of writing for the readers and the business’s needs of generating buzz.

  3. Hi matt,

    thanks for these great notes on the interview with Anna. I appreciate your featuring them and your blog.


  4. Hi Nettie,

    Thanks for stopping by to leave another comment – the interview was very helpful in providing insight into resolving a problem many freelance writers face in generating buzz with the trad media.

    Unfortunately I was in the middle of moving domains when you posted your previous comment so I’ve pasted it below:

    “Thanks much! I’ve got to get to the UK because honestly Anna was brilliant and that’s what made the interview sound so good. And thanks for this link Matt and the kind notes.

    One of the best documents on handling the press is the Interne’t Press Guilds “The Care and Feeding of the Press” – , compiled by Esther Schindler and the Internet Press Guild.

    And Matt, I love your note about differentiation. It’s very true. I also always loved folks who really talked in non-marketing speak. As a journalist one of the things I used to do when I would get a press release just for grins is search for all the times the word “leader” was used. You’d be amazed at how many companies still fill every other paragraph with leaders, leading, leader .

    Real valuable insight, stories and frank conversation is much more interesting to a journalist.”

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