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A Journalist’s Take on Public Relations : Star Tribune's Dee DePass

Wednesday, April 25, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Erin Taylor, student at University of Minnesota
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By Erin Taylor

Student in the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota

 

As a budding strategic communicator, I learn a lot in my courses about how to pitch to the media a story that is beneficial for a client. We cover everything from researching the right reporter, choosing the right media outlet, and creating an appropriate story angle. After speaking with seasoned Star Tribune reporter, Dee DePass, I learned that those steps to the perfect pitch are ever-important in both sides of the “pitching” process-- both for journalists and public relations professionals.

 

Like public relations professionals and corporate communications officers, journalists have to pitch stories in order to have published content. After choosing a topic, DePass says that a story needs to be discussed with the source, she needs to consider all possible angles, then the story is talked over with the editor. Once approved, the deeper reporting begins.

 

With the rise of digital publications and social media, news is delivered to consumers all of the time. The traditional process of creating a story is somewhat on the decline, but that doesn’t mean good reporting should also be losing its weight. Investigative journalism is still an important part of the industry and should be promoted.

 

“When I first entered the business, we had one paper that was delivered in the morning. Now, news is 24/7 on digital and much more reactive,” said DePass. “As a media outlet, however, you still need to be invested in real journalism, not just headline news. You need to look into nuances and real information of every story.”

 

Despite news being more accessible to the public, a pitched story still needs to be newsworthy. According to DePass, there is a huge difference between marketing and journalism. Communicators need to consider that idea before they make their pitch. It is not a journalist’s job to make a company look good or to sell products, it is their job to deliver newsworthy content. When pitching a story, PR professionals should consider the next steps a journalist will take with that idea, and whether or not there is any interest past what was delivered.

 

With that in mind, DePass, also an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota, advises that communicators constantly think, what is considered newsworthy? Is my story timely? Is it prominent? Does it have a human-interest aspect? Is it important to the publication's audience? Does it have proximity to the publication?

 

A strategic communicator with that mindset is on the right path to a good pitch, but there is more to creating a positive relationship with the media. If you are dedicated to getting a story some press, you need to be willing to go the extra mile for your media contact.  DePass says that some PR people go out of their way to give her the information she needs to write a compelling story.

 

“Some of my sources are doing research, interviewing their clients and overall, trying to be as helpful to me as possible,” said DePass. “It is highly appreciated to be forthcoming and willing to build the story.”

 

When pitching to a media outlet, we have an agenda and a bias. We want to get our client or company coverage and promote what we work for. But in order for there to be a mutually beneficial relationship between our two fields, public relations and journalism, we need to be cognizant of who we are pitching to and why, and make sure that we can make it worth that journalist’s time to feature us. We need to recognize that not all journalism is reactive and cater to “real” journalism as well. 

 

Editor’s Note: As a way to support the next generation of public relations professionals, we regularly feature articles written students from within our extended community. Many of you teach and have already seen the thoughtful insights offered by students. For those of you who haven’t, now’s your chance.

 

Students, want to learn more about the industry? Reach out to our student relations committee to learn how you can get involved in PRSSA and PRSA. Students involved in PRSSA gain access to professional development opportunities, scholarships, the opportunity to be published and more.




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Email: office@minnesotaprsa.org

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