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What Journalists Mean When They Say They Want a ‘Story’

Once upon a time, when I was a wee PR assistant at a PR agency, I worked with an awe-inspiring woman entrepreneur that had the most gigantic heart.

She was pioneering a program that would get women into tech with a 100% free curriculum and the guarantee of a 6-figure salary after completion. And she was the only woman at the top of her company.

Basically, she was legit AF.

I pitched her to Forbes, thinking they’d be suckers NOT to feature her.

But to my surprise, this is what I got back:

I was shocked. I had read the journalist’s column before I pitched. My entrepreneur was the story!

Double take – this journalist did something that folks almost never do. Rather than ignore my email or simply deny coverage (when someone gets 400+ PR emails per month on top of her normal email load – I couldn’t blame them), she responded to me – with feedback.

She took time out of her busy day to give me pointers I could use to get media coverage.

And to her, my client was just another amazing woman doing amazing things, and that fact alone wasn’t enough for her to make room on her editorial calendar.

Now if you’re thinking, ‘Psh! There’s never enough women doing amazing things!’ I get you – the same thoughts were running through my head.

But think from her POV for a moment – could you imagine getting repetitive emails about the same. exact. topic. again and again? (another woman entrepreneur… we get it, women start businesses! Give me something different!) You’d unsubscribe from that email list, wouldn’t you?

So I took her feedback and pushed myself. A ‘really fresh, unique and compelling’ story? Whatever that means, I’ll find it. Bring. It. on.

Getting into the journalists’ shoes, I realized I needed to interview my client as if I were writing a story.

So I called her. And guess what – about 30 minutes into our conversation, my client mentioned something.

Even though she was the head of a school and an executive at her company, she still got treated like the office manager. Mail carriers would straight up get to her company’s office and search for the first woman available to sign for packages. And since it’s tech, the first woman (really the only woman) just happened to be her.

Even at the C-Suite, she was expected to interrupt her day to do the most ridiculous office housework tasks.

I’d read loads about office housework before. But signing packages? That’s a new one. That’s unique. That’s fresh. That’s compelling.

That’s a story.

I pitched Forbes again, got interest from two reporters, and got coverage almost immediately.

If I had taken the easy route – huffing, puffing and insisting she just didn’t *get* the story – I’d have continued on without changing my pitch and sent the same unsuccessful email to other editors.

It’s hard to take criticism and improve. And when we’re passionate about our business, sometimes we think others will just *get it* and be passionate too.

But the thing is, they need a little guidance. They need you to make their job a little easier. Amongst all the noise, they need you to show them something that is new, fresh and compelling.

Your story is there. All you need to do is take off your entrepreneur hat for a moment and look at your company with fresh eyes.

Think about whether you have something interesting or new to share on topics that have already been discussed.

See if your friends and customers are really drawn in from a particular story you’ve shared about yourself or your business.

Chances are, if they think something is really unique, journalists will think so too.

And hey – if they don't, brush it off, dig a little deeper and give it another go.

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Hey! I'm Resham.
I'm an award-winning public relations expert and publicity coach here to teach you how to get media exposure and grow your business.